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Date Permissions Signed


Date of Award


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Linneman, Scott

Second Advisor

Hanley, Daniel M., 1973-

Third Advisor

Housen, Bernard Arthur


Understanding the wide range of rates at which geological processes operate can be challenging for introductory geology students, and yet is crucial to understanding how the Earth’s landscapes evolve over time. Research has shown that student misconceptions in this area are common. Time-lapse videos can capture processes that cannot be observed by students in the field and offer promise as a way to improves student understanding of rates of landscape evolution on certain timescales. This thesis explores the effectiveness of using time-lapse videos to teach intro geology students about the rates of surficial geological processes compared to before/after photo pairs depicting the same processes. The effect of interactivity on the effectiveness of time-lapse is also explored. One hundred and thirty students enrolled in introductory geology classes at Western Washington University during Winter and Spring quarter 2014 participated in the study. Subjects took a pre-test where they made qualitative and quantitative predictions about how various landscapes would change over time before completing a series of computer based activities containing before/after photos or time-lapse videos and then a post-test allowing them to revisit their predictions. The performance of three treatment groups, one using before/after photo pairs, one using pre-made time-lapse videos, and one where students made their own custom time-lapse videos using an interactive online program, was compared. All three groups exhibited large and statistically significant gains in understanding of geologic rates as measured by score gain from pre-test to post-test although differences in gains between groups were small and not significant. A number of steps were taken during study design and data analysis to ensure construct and internal validity. Lack of significant differences in the performance of the three treatment groups on the assessments suggests that there may be cognitive barriers to processing the complex and rapid landscape changes presented in a time-lapse video. This may limit how much students, in particular novice geology students, can learn from time-lapse videos, even though they inherently present more information and a more complete picture of a given geological process as compared to before/after photo pairs. The results of the study suggest various ways to improve the implementation and effectiveness of time-lapse videos in the geology classroom, including decreasing frame rates, more guidance on what to focus on when viewing time-lapse videos, inclusion of annotation and/or narration in the videos themselves, more time to look at the videos, and better integration of the videos and assessment questions. Extra care is also needed to ensure that videos explicitly address pre-existing misconceptions held by viewers in order for them to be effective with a wide range of students.





Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Landscape changes--Study and teaching; Time lapse cinematography




masters theses




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Geology Commons