"The experience I gained this semester has given me the confidence to try new active-learning techniques!"

Course: Introductory Geology

Department: Geological Sciences


I intended to use my GEOL 202 (Earth System) class for the Finish Line Project. This class is taught in the Spring and has about 20 students. Instead, I used my GEOL 101 class (110 students) which I taught for the first time this fall. I was hoping to incorporate small group activities (eg. Think Pair Share) and clicker questions. I suspect my initial expectations compared to what was actually implemented would have been different if I started and ended with the same class size. Some of the small group activities planned for the smaller class size I couldn’t use with the larger class because I would have needed a dedicated TA to help. With the switch to the larger class, I decided to focus on think-pair-share and Poll Everywhere.
Think-pair-share combined with minute papers worked great.

Poll Everywhere was less successful, mostly because of either technical issues or because I found the service kind of clunky. I abandoned Poll Everywhere about two-thirds of the way into the semester.

Overall, I'm looking forward to using more of the techniques I learned about in my smaller GEOL 202 (Earth System) class this spring! I anticipate these new activities will go much more smoothly because of the course's smaller size and because of the experience I had this semester. The experience I gained this semester has given me the confidence to try new active-learning techniques. I'm curious to see how the students felt about my new teaching strategies. I also wonder if it impacted my teaching evaluations either positively or negatively.

Course Description

This course covers

(1) Geological materials ranging from rocks and minerals to energy resources

(2) Geological processes such as earthquakes, volcanic activity, mountain formation, plate tectonics, climate change, ocean circulation, etc.

(3) Concepts of long time scales ranging from geological, glacial, and evolutionary in contrast to the more familiar human and ecological time scales.

I plan to modernize the course content by taking an integrated Earth System Science approach that explores linkages among Earth's subsystems, namely, the lithosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, biosphere, and atmosphere. In the near future, the department will be updating the name of this course as part of its modification of our undergraduate curriculum. The new name will be Planet Earth to reflect the modernized course content.

The course typically has 144 students enrolled, fills a science requirement for non-science majors, and often serves as a gateway for new Geological Science majors.

Projected Design Elements

-Group activities such as think-pair-share
-Active engagement strategies, including classroom response systems (e.g. clickers)
-Flipped classroom

Incorporated Design Elements

Small group activities:
-minute papers

Poll Everywhere


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