I teach / have taught a variety of courses including
- Environmental Geology
- Physical Geology
- Field Geology - Geology 450
Both in the real world and in virtual environments, students can best learn geology by learning the process of geologic investigation. Processes include how to take samples, how to look at and interpret microscope images, how to understand measurements made, such as whole rock or microchemical analyses for major and trace elements, and how to evaluate the data obtained in a theoretical context. Improving students’ ability to communicate scientific concepts to a general audience is also an important focus of my courses.
My overall philosophy of teaching is based on active learning principles. Many students, if they can take on the roles required by the science to complete investigations, will internalize content to a much greater degree than if they were sitting in lecture. And, if they are asked to write or speak about a chosen topic, they must understand it in order to explain it clearly. This teaching philosophy is related to the concept of scaffolding, wherein students are provided with supports that assist them in constructing their own knowledge, and in reaching the next level of understanding.
For this reason, I incorporate term projects and writing assignments into as many courses as practical. For term research projects, I ask students to generate real experimental data (X-Ray Diffraction, Scanning Electron Microscopy microchemical analyses, point counts on thin sections, computer model results, or whatever analytical method is appropriate) and “bring something new to the problem,” rather than merely providing a literature review. I have found this technique successful in engaging students with the material.