Assessing Student Learning from Video Animations in the UTD-USF Plate Tectonics Geoscience Animation Project: Melting the Mantle

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Educationally effective and scientifically accurate visualization and animation of geological processes, especially deep earth processes commonly hidden from direct observation, is of great value in undergraduate geoscience instruction, and also very hard to come by, the wealth of geoscience-related video content on YouTube and like outlets notwithstanding. In our current NSF-funded project, we are seeking to sustainably produce and evaluate the educational impact of scientifically accurate animations of deep earth processes.

An initial video animation of mantle melting phenomena, “Three Great Ways to Melt the Mantle”, was produced by the UTD student animation team in the Fall of 2017, and was piloted with the Fall semester cohort (n=22) of the GLY 3311C (Mineralogy, Petrology, Geochemistry) course at the University of South Florida (USF). Students in GLY 3311C viewed the animation as part of a class assignment focused on mafic melting as manifested during subduction initiation in the Izu-Bonin forearc. Learning assessments included questions on a worksheet handed out in class after the assignment, and an embedded test question on the final exam. The learning assessment approach is modified from the Concept Sketch strategy (Johnson and Reynolds 2005) as students were prompted to sketch and annotate a graphical presentation from the video, along with text-based responses. Interviews with selected participants were used to gather practical feedback and other responses to the video, for use in its refinement/revision.

Two USF investigators scored student responses to the learning assessments, and a few participants sat for short interviews. Performance was better on the post-viewing activity than on the exam, as more students chose the correct diagram to sketch and annotate. On the exam, students appeared to struggle with the choice of what to sketch despite a similar prompt, although their text responses suggested some level of conceptual understanding. Our learning assessments and interview responses suggest students are supportive of video animations as a modality for learning, and they appear to benefit from them. Assaying the comparative effectiveness of the approach will require an expanded experimental design, with baseline performance data and a larger n.

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Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 50, issue 6, no. 209-11