ESS 211: Physical Processes of the Earth

First core course in the Earth and Space Sciences Major, 90-100 students with lab and overnight camping field trip, 5 credits. Quantitative geomorphology and structural geology, taught through the lens of physics and equations.

ESS 418: Geoscience Communication

Required course for the Earth and Space Sciences Major, 30-35 students, 4 credits, UW Writing credit.

ESS 480/580: Advanced Methods in Isotope Geochemistry

Fulfils graduate data analysis requirement. Hands on lab stuff & statistics included at no extra charge!

ESS 590: Topical Seminars

Rotating Topics including: Tectonics and Climate, Himalayan Tectonics, Thermochronology, Detrital record of Himalayan orogenesis; River incision and plateau uplift; Clumped Isotope Geochemistry; Colorado plateau topographic evolution....

ESS 595b: Research Methods (Tectonics Geomorphology and Climate Supergroup)

2 credits, ~10 graduate students for credit, accompanied by a couple of undergrads, 5-8 faculty, a couple of postdocs and colleagues from USGS, and frequently visiting seminar speakers from other institutions.

Some fun teaching tips

Talk students through your feedback, clearly and easily. Jing is software from TechSmith that lets you capture basic video, animation and still images, and share them on the web. It can be a great tool for giving students feedback on their papers, abstracts, posters... anything you look at on a screen. Also works great for giving instructions for using a model, implementing code, or filling out budget forms, explaining lesson plans to a TA, etc. Download [here]. Info on how Jing can be used to give feedback on papers [here].

Laser pointers are the cheap, easy, flexible clicker. Think a 90-person lecture course with PowerPoint can't be an engaging active learning experience? Think you could never flip your classroom? Think again. Students bring laser pointers to class. Anyone who points a laser in someone's eye gets an automatic Fail. Every 1-3 slides ask questions that can be answered with a laser pointer to get instant and anonymous feedback. E.g., show multiple choice answers to a think-pair-share exercise and ask students on the count of three to point to the answer. Then go beyond what is easy to do with clickers: show an equation and ask them to point to the terms that will cancel out in the next slide, or terms that explain why slope stability decreases when it rains. Show a block diagram of an offset basalt dike and identify the hanging wall and other features, or predict the dip of a contact in cross section. Show a meandering river and point to the zones where erosion or deposition will be focused. Show the words "too slow, just right, too fast" and ask them to rate the pace. Watch the right answer light up instantly when they get it, and see the fireflies dance around on the screen when they don't....

Some other tips. Reducing grading time while increasing effectiveness [slides]. Sage on the stage to guide on the side [pdf]. SERC website! [here]

Teaching seminar courses that work

"Seminar discourse is not competition. The purpose is to create understanding by bringing differing viewpoints and questions to the seminar." -Columbia College (link)

Effective and engaging seminar discussions don't just happen on their own. It helps to set the tone and expectations on day 1 to promote participation and investment. E.g., give each student a roster of participant names and photos. Have students do the cheesy talk to someone they don't know for 2 minutes and introduce them to the class. Brainstorm a list of what people find mode annoying about in-class journal article discussions, and explain how the class structure and tone aim to avoid these. Acknowledge that extroverts and introverts each bring both strenghts and weaknesses to seminar discussions. Value both, and create (and value with the grading system) mechanisms for both types of students to operate within their comfort zone and also challenge (and reward with the grading system) both to operate outside of their comfort zone, i.e., by grading in-class participation as well as written reading responses posted online for all to see in advance of class. Discuss strategies for effective reading, and acknowledge that understanding difficult texts requires that we struggle and interact with the text. Have students take responsibility NOT for "presenting" on readings, but for facilitating discussion by crafting a series of discussion questions based on their own reading of the assignment, ancillary literature and online posts. In other words, “Lead discussion” means leading us through a series of questions crafted to bring out interesting points and deeper understanding of the paper, and delving into related literature or topics as needed.

**Example Reading Response Guidelines [here]. Example literature search assignment [here]. Piece on "Deep Reading" by John Bean [here].

Apply what you've learned by designing an original research proposal. One way to help motivate thoughtful reading, reflection and discussion is to have students prepare throughout the course for a capstone research proposal assignment. This works for both grad students and undergrads, though expectations in terms of feasibility and completeness differ based on student experience. Typically 1-2 students per class eventually follow through with their proposal ideas to garner funding, conduct field or lab work, and present or publish their research.

**Example Final Proposal assignment [here]. Info on Presentations [here].

The learning goals don't stop with the seminar subject matter.  Incorporating these approaches into seminar courses has several added benefits. Students become more effective readers of the scientific literature and discussion leaders through explicit discussion of reading and leading approaches and through practice. Students also improve their technical writing and speaking skills through instruction and practice (i.e., writing article summaries, engaging in class discussions, summarizing literature reviews in class).


I care about student learning, both because I love being a scientist and want to share that passion with others, and because I believe that Earth science education can help students grow into responsible citizens and/or broadly trained scientific colleagues. My teaching in the classroom/field/lab, research student advising, and mentorship activities focus not only on scientific concepts and quantitative rigor, but also on scientific communication skills and professional development.

Find basic information on Courses,

Fun Teaching Tips (Jing and Laser Pointers), and Teaching Seminar Courses That Work below.

See Resources for tips on things like science communication and navagating a career in science.

This picture kindof says it all