Development of a transferable student engagement and knowledge retention framework for the earth sciences

Sunay Vasant Palsole, University of Texas at El Paso


The earth sciences play an important role in engaging students in science and in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, because of the integrative nature of the disciplines. It then becomes important for us to provide an engaging experience for students taking earth science courses, because it serves a dual purpose of possibly increasing new majors in the discipline and helping to create a science literate population. Given that a majority of students in the larger introductory courses are non-majors, it behooves us to explore alternative engagement techniques and measure their efficacy in student engagement, which in turn can help inform instructional design for advanced geoscience courses. This study focused on creating a highly engaging course using inquiry based learning scenarios inter-spread throughout the semester along with heuristic quizzes (a series of questions in a specific sequence that map to a process) with very specific feedback that help students understand the development of the earth processes. Along with the heuristic quizzes, the course was transformed into an active learning based hybrid course, where the didactic content was uploaded and made available to the students using a learning management system and class time was spent working on application exercises that were developed by me. I chose specific scenarios and processes that the students could possibly encounter in the greater El Paso region to provide a local and situational aspect to the exercises. The course and instructional design process followed a period of 18 months with each semester providing data to jigsaw into the final design. Student performance data, both qualitative (self efficacy, self reported engagement ) as well as quantitative scales (performance on assessments, course grades) was collected over the entire development period. Comparative data of the hybrid course and a traditional course indicate improved student performance in the active learning course over the traditional course. The data also indicate that the students had greater content retention 8 week after the course had ended in the hybrid course over the traditional course. The study then presents a nascent model for the design of earth science courses.

Subject Area

Geology|Science education

Recommended Citation

Palsole, Sunay Vasant, "Development of a transferable student engagement and knowledge retention framework for the earth sciences" (2014). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3636293.