Abstract

Geology faculty at Lake Superior Sate University (LSSU), a comprehensive state-funded university in Michigan's eastern Upper Peninsula, have designed and implemented a new undergraduate geoscience curriculum that utilizes innovative instructional strategies. The purpose of our major undertaking was to remediate the learning problems that we associated with traditional geoscience curricula and pedagogy, problems such as lack of student attentiveness and retention of concepts, inability of students to integrate core concepts after a series of discrete courses, lack of student communication skills, and poor student motivation. We have all witnessed unengaged students during traditional lecture sessions; we as instructors wanted to provide excitement in the geosciences, stimulate interest, and improve student problem-solving skills. Thus, after years of tweaking our traditional courses in the usual manner by creating active and open-ended laboratory exercises, providing increasing amounts of field work, and incorporating small projects within the constraints of our traditionally structured curriculum, we decided that only a complete curricular revision coupled with a commitment to pedagogical change would meet our goals of educating our students to enhance the learning process and to better prepare geoscientists for 21st century graduate programs and industry needs and expectations. By promoting the development of students' intellectual and creative thinking skills and by engaging them in team-oriented, problem-solving activities that enhance development of complex reasoning in authentic contexts, we expected to meet our objectives. Our graduates' successes since full implementation of our new curriculum in 2004 include an approximately 70% continuation rate to graduate studies in the geosciences and an undergraduate research involvement that results in about 30% of our students earning co-authorships of abstracts or publications.

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