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science education, large-enrollment lectures, general education
A Geological Perspective is a general education survey course for non-science majors at a large southwestern research extensive university. The class has traditionally served 600 students per semester in four 150-student lectures taught by faculty, and accompanied by optional weekly study groups run by graduate teaching assistants. We radically redesigned the course to 1) improve student learning and, simultaneously, 2) reduce faculty effort. Previously optional study groups were replaced by weekly mandatory break-out sessions, run largely by undergraduate peer mentors. Twice weekly, lectures are brief with a large portion of class time allocated to active learning in small groups. Completing quizzes on-line reduced grading and allowed students more flexibility. Evaluation of the redesign (mixed methods, quasi-experimental, two-group, pre-test-post-test, multiple-measures study design) revealed no significant improvements in learner outcomes insofar as the instruments could measure. However, qualitative results reveal that overall students greatly valued their learning experience under the redesign. In addition, the redesign reduced the departmental cost of the class offering per student by more than half.