Date of Graduation
Eberly College of Arts and Sciences
John J. Renton
Robert E. Behling
Anthony B. Billings
Debra A. Hemler
Patricia A. Obenauf
There has been an increased emphasis for college instruction to incorporate more active and collaborative involvement of students in the learning process. These views have been asserted by The Association of American Colleges (AAC), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and The National Research Counsel (NRC), which are advocating for the modification of traditional instructional techniques to allow students the opportunity to be more cooperative (Task Group on General Education, 1988). This has guided educators and facilitators into shifting teaching paradigms from a teacher centered to a more student-centered curriculum. The present study investigated achievement outcomes and attitudes of learners in a large enrollment (n ~ 200), introductory geology course using a student centered learning cycle format of instruction versus another similar section that used a traditional lecture format. Although the course is a recruiting class for majors, over 95% of the students that enroll are non-majors. Measurements of academic evaluation were through four unit exams, classroom communication systems, weekly web-based homework, in-class activities, and a thematic collaborative poster/paper project and presentation. The qualitative methods to investigate the effectiveness of the teaching design included: direct observation, self-reporting about learning, and open-ended interviews. By disaggregating emerging data, we tried to concentrate on patterns and causal relationships between achievement performance and attitudes regarding learning geology. Statistical analyses revealed positive relationships between student engagement in supplemental activities and achievement mean scores within and between the two sections. Completing weekly online homework had the most robust relationship with overall achievement performance. Contrary to expectations, a thematic group project only led to modest gains in achievement performance, although the social and professional gains could be considered as significant as the academic merit. The qualitative data substantiated the achievement success and revealed a positive relationship between a student centered learning environment and attitudes regarding learning geology. Our findings indicated a positive trend favoring active learning instructional practices, particularly methods that emphasize independent and active thinking, and analyzing of data. Of particular interest was the correlation between the amount of student ownership in an activity and students' attitude toward authenticity and application in learning. Students' perceptions and attitudes provided depth in program evaluation and helped in identifying which components used in teaching methodologies were the most effective towards learning. Although the exigencies of high enrollment introductory courses set limits for this study, the outcomes support the positive influence that active learning has on achievement performance in a high enrollment, introductory Geology course.
Berry, Stacy Jane, "Using active learning strategies to investigate student learning and attitudes in a large enrollment, introductory geology course" (2013). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 147.