Utilizing Creative Exercise Assessment of a Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience to Identify and Correct Students' Misconceptions and Misunderstandings in an Introductory Mineralogy & Petrology Course

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A course-based undergraduate research experience (CURE) has been implemented in an introductory mineralogy & petrology (min-pet) course at a primarily undergraduate serving state university in Florida. This CURE utilizes remote operation of electron microscopes to chemically analyze silicate minerals from igneous rocks. The remote operation enables the CURE by allowing access to research-grade instrumentation. Assessment of this CURE was conducted to measure its impacts on the students. A benefits assessment, modeled after the CURE survey of Lopatto (2010), was administered at the end of the course. This assessment revealed the CURE was resulting in the expected positive benefits to the students.

The creative exercise assessment approach (Lewis et al., 2010) was utilized for the summative assessment. This open-ended assessment targeted the CURE directly. However, it also addressed concepts critical to introductory min-pet courses. These included questions on mafic magma and how volcanoes erupt. This assessment was administered at the beginning of the course, and then again at the end of the course. It demonstrated strong positive learning gains in the students’ min-pet content knowledge. It also revealed misconceptions and misunderstandings which persisted even after delivery of min-pet course content. Common mafic magma misconceptions/misunderstandings include: students’ assigning mafic magma the attributes of basalt or ferromagnesium silicate minerals (e.g., dark in color); and poor connections between mafic magma and metamorphism. Common volcanic eruption misconceptions/misunderstandings include: the motion of any tectonic plates or magma generation from partial melting of the mantle would cause volcanoes to erupt; poor connections between the processes that generate magma with how volcanoes erupt; and, if “hot” magma is merely present a volcano will erupt. Assessment of this CURE also revealed students do not make meaningful connections between processes occurring in magma chambers, mafic magma, and volcanic eruptions. After identification by the CURE assessment results, these misconceptions and misunderstandings are being addressed by modifying course content.

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Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, v. 50, issue 6, no. 145-3