Improving the Laboratory Experience for Introductory Geology Students Using Active Learning and Evidence-Based Reform

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Rachel Passig Oien1, Alison M Anders2 and Ann Long1, (1)University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Urbana, IL, United States, (2)University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, Geology, Urbana, IL, United States
We present the initial results of transitioning laboratory activities in an introductory physical geology course from passive to active learning. Educational research demonstrates that student-driven investigations promote increased engagement and better retention of material. Surveys of students in introductory physical geology helped us identify lab activities which do not engage students. We designed new lab activities to be more collaborative, open-ended and “hands-on”. Student feedback was most negative for lab activities which are computer-based. In response, we have removed computers from the lab space and increased the length and number of activities involving physical manipulation of samples and models. These changes required investment in lab equipment and supplies. New lab activities also include student-driven exploration of data with open-ended responses. Student-evaluations of the new lab activities will be compiled during Fall 2014 and Spring 2015 to allow us to measure the impact of the changes on student satisfaction and we will report on our findings to date. Modification of this course has been sponsored by NSF’s Widening Implementation & Demonstration of Evidence Based Reforms (WIDER) program through grant #1347722 to the University of Illinois. The overall goal of the grant is to increase retention and satisfaction of STEM students in introductory courses.