Development of a writing-intensive capstone course for geology majors

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Geography and Geology


The geology program at Eastern Michigan University is small, but has had both a long history and recent successes in having students accepted into graduate programs and geologic careers. Until recently, majors lacked an opportunity to reflect upon what they had learned and to revisit material from disparate courses to see how all concepts are intertwined. When a revision to the general education program required that a writing-intensive course be offered in each program, the opportunity to create a capstone course for geology majors was presented. As the one unifying theme behind all modern geologic study is plate tectonics, ESSC 426: Regional Geology and Global Tectonics was created to fulfill this role. The course is divided into two sections. The beginning of the course revisits plate tectonics: delving into much greater detail about the actual mechanics, layering, and dynamics than what was presented in earlier classes. The second section of the class looks into the development and provincial composition of the North American landmass. Students are given a research project on a province or orogeny in North America, which they work on throughout the term. Through guided writing exercises, students develop both written and oral reports on their area. The course finishes with student presentations on their material. Throughout the course, focus is directed on writing, thinking and processing the material presented. The objectives of this course are to increase students' abilities to cognitively process information, to research, read and comprehend scientific articles, and to coherently present information to their peers, all while mastering the content of the course. Initial student evaluations rate this course as one of the most valuable in their education.