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ERIC Number: EJ1163984
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2013-Nov
Pages: 15
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-1089-9995
Characterizing Teaching in Introductory Geology Courses: Measuring Classroom Practices
Budd, D. A.; van der Hoeven Kraft, K. J.; McConnell, D. A.; Vislova, T.
Journal of Geoscience Education, v61 n4 p461-475 Nov 2013
Most research about reformed teaching practices in the college science classroom is based on instructor self-report. This research describes what is happening in some introductory geology courses at multiple institutions across the country using external observers. These observations are quantified using the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP). A scoring rubric created to support consistent application of the 25 items on the RTOP yields very high inter-rater agreement over multiple observations throughout a 3 y period. Using the adapted RTOP instrument, 66 separate observations of introductory physical geology classrooms at 11 different institutions (four associate's colleges, three baccalaureate colleges, a master's university, and three research universities) were collected, and those observations indicate three categories of instruction: (1) teacher-centered, traditional lecture-dominated classrooms (RTOP < 30) with little student talk and minimal student activity beyond listening and note taking; (2) transitional classrooms with some activities involving brief student discussions centered around right/wrong answers; and (3) student-centered classrooms (RTOP = 50) with considerable time devoted to active learning and student communications to promote conceptual understanding. The progression from teacher-centered to transitional and then to student-centered categories is incremental across all subscales of the RTOP instrument except for propositional knowledge (character of the lesson's content and instructor's command of the material), which only increases between teacher-centered and transitional categories. This means there is no single path to an active learning, student-centered introductory geology classroom. Such learning environments are achieved with a holistic approach to all aspects of constructivist teaching as measured by RTOP. If the instructor incorporates small changes in multiple aspects of their teaching from disseminator of knowledge to supporter of student learning, then the transition to a student-centered classroom becomes an approachable process. Faculty can also use the RTOP and rubric to guide course planning, promote self-reflection of their teaching, and assist in the peer evaluation of other's teaching.
National Association of Geoscience Teachers. Carleton College W-SERC, One North College Street, Northfield, MN 55057. Tel: 540-568-6675; Fax: 540-568-8058; e-mail:; Website:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: National Science Foundation (NSF), Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: 0817260; 1023097; 0914404; 1022980