What were the issues? Difficult to deal with wide-ranging, exciting geoscience topics at first year level when the background geoscience knowledge of incoming students is limited. Modularisation promotes self-contained, subject-based topics (e.g. introductory mineralogy) and students fail to see where the bigger pictures may be. Students have difficulties combining lecture-note taking, reading and general organisation of paper-based materials into a learning package that can help them write structured essays. TRANSITION! How to engage students with their subject and their department? They need help transferring from school to university education.
Response? Three years ago, a curriculum review provided the opportunity to develop a new 7.5 credit module that could address these issues. Students attend a series of 8 lectures spread over the first year given by 8 different faculty staff and covering topics like Philosophy of Science, The Origin of the Moon, Earthquake Prediction, Mass Extinctions, Snowball Earth. Each lecturer uses whatever delivery style they want (PowerPoint, chalk and talk), but must provide an illustration of the scientific method, the relationship between evidence and models, uncertainty etc. and must direct students towards a range of related reading.
Student Engagement & Portfolio Students must also attend 6 additional talks given by guest speakers at either the Herdman Student Society evening meetings or the departmental seminar series. The students develop a portfolio with a section for each lecture topic: – containing their notes – annotated copies of the reading – one page (A4) summary of the main points of the topic, derived from the notes and the reading.
The Degree Class System... A key marking descriptor for UPPER CLASS DEGREE grades is shows evidence of reading beyond lecture notes
Assessment The portfolio is 40% and a final essay paper is 60%. Portfolio is formatively assessed at end 1 st semester to provide feedback. Portfolio is summatively assessed at end 2 nd Semester and returned to facilitate revision. The final examination requires one essay to be written in 60 minutes from a choice of two (from 4 previously advertised) essay titles, and must integrate reading into the answer. A significant number of students have not submitted their portfolio for formative assessment. It is notable that their second semester portfolio and their examination performance is not as good.
Effect of not getting portfolio feedback? P1a students submitted no portfolio for feedback and ultimately got P1b scores. P2a students got formative feedback and mostly did well (P2b). Self-selecting?
The Student View Did the recommended reading help you understand the topic better? – Yes, a more in depth understanding was achieved – Yes, but there was too much of some of it, for example earthquake prediction – Yes, the recommended reading was very important – Yes, but it was heavy going at times. I struggled with annotating the reading – Some of it. Some was too in depth and a bit daunting
The Student View Did this module encourage you to attend other lectures? – Yes, I made an effort to attend Herdman lectures and seminars due to the requirements of this module and found them interesting. I am not sure I would have done so otherwise. – Without this module I would probably never have bothered with Herdman Lectures. It was a good way of introducing them. – No, some seminars I found boring because I didnt understand them.
The Student View Was portfolio development useful? – Good for revision as it made you sort your notes out and understand them after each lecture so it was just revision and not re-learning things. – Yes, it helped me learn to organise my notes, summarise lectures and annotate reading materials. – Yes. A lot. I would have struggled with the exam without the portfolio.
Success? I think so. Students learn how to incorporate reading into their lecture-based learning materials. Students improve their organisation of topic- based learning materials. Students engage more with departmental activities... – an improved sense of belonging is good.