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Learning Paleontology Through Doing: Integrating an Authentic Research Project into an Invertebrate Paleontology Course

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 July 2017

Patricia H. Kelley
Affiliation:
Department of Geography and Geology, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, NC 28403-5944 USA
Christy C. Visaggi
Affiliation:
Department of Biology and Marine Biology, University of North Carolina Wilmington, Wilmington, NC 28403-5915 USA
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Abstract

We implemented an authentic research experience as part of the invertebrate paleontology course at University of North Carolina Wilmington to promote student learning objectives related to understanding course content, critical thinking, problem solving, and oral and written communication. This semester-long research project, worth 20% of the course grade, is incorporated into the laboratory component of the course, and employs best practices of active and collaborative learning. Students work as teams to develop and test paleoecological and/or evolutionary hypotheses using field-collected or archived bulk samples. Following sample processing, specimen identification, and data collecting and analysis, students write a research paper using the format of a professional paper, with individually and team-written parts, and present their results orally. After completion, one or more abstracts based on the results are submitted to a professional meeting. Typically, several students attend the meeting and present the posters. This approach allows students to experience authentic research from conception to dissemination. Since 2003, the course has been offered seven times, resulting in 13 published and presented abstracts. Over half the students remained involved in paleontology following the course by presenting the work or taking additional courses or independent study, demonstrating that the experience was received positively. This approach provides a model for other instructors, as the research project can be adapted to a variety of geological settings and topics. Successes and challenges in implementing such a project are discussed.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © 2012 by The Paleontological Society 

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