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Tectonic shift in year 10 learning

Dave Corner of Auckland’s Pakuranga College developed a successful geology unit using resources from several SLH contexts. His students were engaged because they had been to or seen many of the volcanoes or other geological sites featured.

Dave Corner teaches at Pakuranga College in Auckland, a state co-ed school with 2000+ students. By tweaking his teaching approach and using resources from the Science Learning Hub, Dave was able to make a big difference to student motivation and learning in his year 10 general science class.

Dave begins his story: “Geology is one of my target topics this year. I have taught it every year for the last 6 years, and it is inherently my worst topic. I believe that some of this was due to the time of the year, but I’m also aware that my geology resources were not as engaging as they are for other topics I teach.”

Dave turned to the Science Learning Hub (SLH) for some new resources. He says, “What I wanted from the Hub was contexts, 21st century research, colourful diagrams and relevant descriptions of processes and phenomena.” Dave chose materials from across the Earthquakes, Volcanoes and Dating the Past contexts. These included articles, videos, interactives and diagrams that all relate specifically to New Zealand.

In addition to modifying his resources, Dave also changed his teaching methods. Students worked at their own pace to achieve their goals independently. “Previously, I have often followed a set path of teaching through this topic: Earth structure, plate tectonics, continental drift theory, weathering and erosion, rock cycle, volcanoes, what happens at plate boundaries and finish with earthquakes. Within this have been practical and research activities that enhance the learning experience, and despite having resources that were specific to New Zealand, they were not engaging my students,” says Dave.

“This time, at the start of the topic, I looked at the outcomes I wanted to achieve, and instead of me teaching it the same old way, students engaged in a series of three projects to help them learn the material.”

Dave started with the structure of the Earth and plate tectonics and challenged his students to prepare a report on New Zealand geology in the 21st century – specifically, how geological phenomena could affect Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland in the future. The second project explored volcano types and descriptions with a focus on New Zealand examples. The final project centred on weathering, erosion and the rock cycle. Students used a combination of SLH resources, textbooks and rock samples to learn about these processes and relate them to New Zealand locations.

I was facilitating their learning by answering their own questions or guiding them to the next stage in their work. I was not questioning them and challenging them all of the time.

Dave saw a change in his students’ motivation. “One of the best aspects of this teaching was the New Zealand-based materials on the SLH. Students had been to or seen the volcanoes. They knew what islands Dr Richard Price was talking about, and it engaged them quickly.” Local, relevant examples made a positive impact on student understanding of the science concepts. Dave even noticed his students doing extra study– a sure sign of success! “Overall, I think that the students enjoyed the fact that it wasn’t me teaching them. I was facilitating their learning by answering their own questions or guiding them to the next stage in their work. I was not questioning them and challenging them all of the time.”

School resources still played a role in Dave’s teaching. He says, “I used these more as summative assessment resources, which the students rattled off keenly to show how much they’d picked up.”

Activity idea

View the resources Dave used to teach his geology unit

Learn more about the structure of the Earth and plate tectonics:
Inside the Earth
Plate tectonics

Learn more about the many forms, shapes and sizes that volcanoes come in.
Types of volcanoes

This interactive map shows details of the major volcanoes in New Zealand.
Volcano map of New Zealand

In this video, Dr Richard Price describes the theory of plate tectonics and how this relates to volcanology and some of New Zealand’s off shore islands.
Plate tectonics

View how different processes work to change rocks from one type to another.
The rock cycle

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