Center for Teaching and Learning

April 2, 2020

9 – A Hands-On, Student-Centered Approach to the Exploration of Coriolis


  • Rosalind Echols, School of Oceanography, UW Seattle
  • Sasha Seroy, School of Oceanography, UW Seattle


Hands-on activities and demonstrations are abundant in geoscience education. While these activities are useful tools to promote student learning, their classroom implementation often lacks key evidence-based pedagogical elements and/or real-world context, making it difficult for students to transfer and apply knowledge. However, such hands-on demonstrations can be easily adapted to improve student learning.

In this work, we modified existing laboratory activities and demonstrations using elements of Ambitious Science Teaching and Model-Based Inquiry and assessed how these targeted modifications enhanced student learning. This was implemented in an undergraduate UW Oceanography laboratory course (OCN 201) with students, most of whom were STEM majors, at all stages of their undergraduate career. We transformed a traditional lab that relied on direct instruction and confirmation of pre-supplied hypotheses to a concept-first-math-second exploratory approach that scaffolds generation and testing of student hypotheses. The written lab materials cultivated discourse within the classroom where students’ ideas and experiences were regarded as resources, as they developed and revised hypotheses around real-life phenomena. Lab activities include a host of inexpensive do-it-yourself apparatuses that provide opportunities for students to conduct their own experiments, commissioning students to employ scientific practices to do authentic work.

Pre- and post- assessments demonstrated that students were better able to meet key content goals, as evidenced by their ability to contextualize and accurately convey information in environmentally relevant models. By eliciting student ideas throughout instruction, we were able to identify misconceptions and track subsequent learning, enabling us to critique and enhance critical parts of instruction for future years. This study shows that minimal adaptation to existing undergraduate laboratory curriculum can lead to greater learning outcomes.This approach is widely applicable to other disciplines and can be easily implemented by reframing already existing activities and demonstrations using the framework we provide.

Video presentation


Q & A: Poster session 1 (2:00 – 2:50 p.m.)