INTEGRATING A BASIC SKILLS PROGRAM ACROSS THE CURRICULUM IN A GEOSCIENCE DEPARTMENT
We used the Basics for the first time during spring 2002. The Basics were sorely needed. Very few students were capable of doing well on quizzes that covered the Basics, and virtually all students needed to spend time refreshing the Basics. We now have two full years of experience in using the Basics, and we have made a number of observations. 1) Students need repeated practice, and many students take several semesters of courses before becoming reasonably fluent in the Basics. 2) We have so far been unsuccessful in sticking to our intention of having students walk in the door with the Basics mastered each semester. While this is our goal, most of us quiz students repeatedly early in the semester. 3) While many students are successful at memorizing terms and diagrams, many have not mastered the concepts behind the terms. Testing with concept sketches may help address this problem. 4) Many students have commented that being tested on the Basics is something they really need, even if they dont enjoy it. 5) The system works best, predictably, when all faculty in the Department are on board and dont cherry pick portions of the Basics. 6) Our students who took field geology after having been through the Basic Skills system were noticeably better in the field at rock and mineral identification and had a better sense of temporal and tectonic context than students who had taken field geology in previous years.