7th Annual Judith Ramaley Celebration of Research and Creative Scholarship
GEOS 235 Earth & Life Through Time: Laboratory Reconstruction & Student Engagement
Faculty Mentor: W. Lee Beatty
Earth and Life Through Time is currently a course that many interpretive science majors take to grasp the overall idea of the evolution of Earth and life. The course is designed to provide auditory learning during lecture and inquiry based learning during laboratory. The laboratory component of this course is a major part of the investigative practices that bring biological and geological theories together. The goal of this project is to incorporate educational pedagogy, group collaboration, and critical thinking into the restructured labs of the course. Labs were designed to build on each other by incorporating the idea of scaffolding and allowing students to use prior knowledge, new knowledge, and resources provided at the beginning of each lab. Laboratories began with a short lecture discussing the concept that would be investigated, and the remaining time was allotted for laboratory exploration. Below is a short explanation of each laboratory unit and concepts that were established.
Rock Identification. This laboratory was designed to help strengthen student’s confidence regarding rock identification. During the first three weeks of the unit, individual rock types were investigated. In the fourth week, students demonstrated their knowledge of rock characteristics and classification in an exam. Throughout the unit, students also worked at their own pace classifying a collection of 150 rocks. This part of the lab allowed students to use knowledge gained during the weekly labs and apply it to a new suite of samples.
Sedimentary Rock Interpretation and Correlation. This laboratory was designed to help strengthen student’s ability to think critically about geology in different situations. During this three-week unit, students practiced interpreting geologic cross-sections and learned the importance of correlation in understanding geologic history. The unit ended with a mid-semester project incorporating rock identification, interpretation and correlation.
Fossils. This unit was designed to help strengthen students’ ability to observe, identify, and explore fossils and their anatomy. In this three-week unit, students identified fossils and used biostratigraphy to understand geologic time and the importance of fossil assemblages and keystone species. The unit ended with an exam evaluating students’ fossil identification skills.
Geologic Maps and Structures. This unit was designed to help students think abstractly and about key geologic principles on a large scale. This was a four-week study that brought in new information while applying knowledge from the previous weeks. Labs became more in-depth and large-scale as the unit proceeded, introducing geologic maps, structures and interpretations. This unit wraps up with a final project incorporating rock identification, interpretation, correlation, fossil identification, maps, and geologic structures.
Student success is gauged by exam and lab scores over two semesters and surveys created to determine if true student learning was reached. Since success is not always measured by raw data, but also by personal growth and development in academics, surveys and personal conversations will also be incorporated into the analysis. Student feedback will be another major component used to assess the success of the changes made in the laboratory.