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As part of the NSF-funded VCEPT project, geology faculty at Mary Washington College have developed and pilot tested a two-semester sequence of geology courses which are taught in a non-traditional, discovery oriented style. The guiding philosophy of the course development is to ensure that students learn about geological principles through collaborative learning in a variety of field settings that were carefully chosen to provide good examples of a range of geologic processes and environments. The design goals of these courses include improvement in student retention of concepts, increased student interest in earth science, improved critical thinking skills and the promotion of collaborative learning. Development of the courses required multiple visits by geology faculty to numerous field sites in order to determine the suitability of using each site to teach fundamentals such as mineralogy, formation of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks and deformation features. Students are provided with field notebooks, local topographic maps and basic field tools such as Brunton compasses and hand lenses. Each student maintains his or her own field notebook in order to record increasingly sophisticated observations regarding geologic features within eastern Virginia. Eventually, teams of students present and defend an overall chronology of geologic events for the mid-Atlantic Appalachian region. Course assessment tools include written student comment sheets, standardized course reaction questionnaire scores and tracking of students who decide to continue within the geology major.





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