The Impact of Curriculum and Instructional Choices on Undergraduate Students in Introductory Geology

Christopher Roemmele


This research investigated the impact of an introductory geology class on undergraduate students' attitudes toward and conceptual understanding of geology. The purpose was to identify students' geologic blindness, a construct of disinterest, disdain, and unawareness of geology, geologic processes, and their relationship to humans, by assessing students’ views on curricular and pedagogical choices. A convergent parallel mixed-methods research design was conducted. The participants consisted of 289 students enrolled over two semesters in an introductory geology class for non-majors. Specific to content and instruction, students found the format of rock and mineral labs and exams difficult and in need of change. They expressed positive attitudes about the hands-on, collaborative nature of these labs, and observation skills to perform them. Curriculum topics judged more interesting were deemed less difficult to understand, and vice versa, and that there was general understanding of geology’s broader themes of tectonics and time. Open-ended responses from participants, and interviews with key informants provided further evidence for these results. Students indicated that explicit instruction on the topic relevance, cross-topic connections, and on-going assessment and the use of a variety of visualizations and collaborative work would help to improve understanding and attitudes. The results provide insight into ways to improve introductory geology courses by addressing geologic blindness.

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International Research in Higher Education  ISSN 2380-9183 (Print)  ISSN 2380-9205 (Online)

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