Measuring the effects of a research-based field experience on undergraduates and K-12 teachers

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Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences; Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences


During the summer of 1999, a new type of field course was taught in five of eastern Utah's National Parks and Monuments. The course was unique because it targeted a combination of university undergraduates and K-12 teachers, emphasized development of participants' problem-solving skills, and assessed the effectiveness of several non-traditional teaching methods. The course's primary goal was to teach participants to develop and test their own ideas. The course also was designed to help participants learn to use tools and methods employed by research scientists. A mix of undergraduates and teachers was targeted so that the course could be used to introduce undergraduates to the concept of teaching as a career. A blend of pedagogical components was employed and tested during the course. Pre- and post-course attitudinal surveys, instruments designed to measure lower-and higher-order cognitive skills, diagnostic learning logs, and post-course interviews were used to assess the course's success at achieving six specific goals. The course produced an immediate impact on the attitudes, career choices, and lower-and higher-order cognitive skills of student participants. Although the initial results are intriguing, the assessments are not statistically significant for a variety of reasons including small sample size. Subsequent offerings of the course will be assessed in similar ways so that results can be interpreted with more confidence in the future.

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Journal of Geoscience Education