Upgrading a beginning geophysics course: Taking the “small-is-beautiful approach”

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Abstract

Considerable attention is now directed toward improving Earth science curricula, as illustrated by both presentations at national scientific meetings and discussions in the literature. Much of the discussion addresses large-scale changes, such as the development of new degree programs [e.g., Stein, 1996]. Such reforms can be very successful but require lengthy interactions with university bureaucracies.

A complementary approach is to upgrade individual courses or groups of courses. This approach has the advantage of being doable by individual faculty members, without bureaucracy, and on small (or nonexistent) budgets. We have been taking such a “smallis-beautiful” [Schumacher, 1973] or “faster, camcheaper, better” approach to upgrading our introductory geophysics course. Our discussions with colleagues elsewhere have shown that there is interest in this effort. Therefore we will summarize the effort here in the hope of encouraging discussions of similar experiments.

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