180 Revitalizing Introductory Earth Science Survey Courses with Modern Active Learning Tutorials

Monday, 11 January 2016
Timothy Slater, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY; and S. Slater

More than 400,00 non-science majoring undergraduates take Earth System Science survey courses and nearly 100,000 enroll in Weather and Climate courses. This pool of students represents a tremendous opportunity for scientists to influence future taxpayers' knowledge and attitudes about the value, methods and results of our science. For many of these students, this will be the last science course they ever take in their education pathway. Moreover, as many as 40% of our students eventually go on to become K-12 teachers, although many are not aware that they are about to become future educators when they are taking our courses. Taken together, these courses often represent critical last-chance opportunities to positively influence citizen's lives regarding the Earth sciences. In an effort to more efficiently move course instructors toward the more active learning approaches that discipline-based education research consistently shows result in higher student achievement and enhance student attitudes, scientists and educators at the CAPER Center for Astronomy & Physics Education Research have created and widely field-tested a series of active learning tutorials for use in the lecture-setting. Given that many introductory survey courses are often taught in large-enrollment settings by overloaded faculty with limited training in how to teach using active learning, these active learning tutorials are designed to be easily implemented with little ramp up. Each active learning tutorial requires five to seven minutes of class time and are most often used to provide students and faculty a short break from the lecture mode of instruction. Moreover, each active learning tutorial leverages the long-standing educational benefits of small group collaborative learning instruction. Pre- and posttest measures show that classes using these short active learning tutorials make nearly double the achievement gains of courses the use lecture modes alone (21% versus 46% normalized gain scores). Qualitative measures show similar results and confirm that both students and faculty believe that the active learning tutorials enhance the classroom climate and support learning.

Supplementary URL: www.caperteam.com

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