Rocky Mountain (56th Annual) and Cordilleran (100th Annual) Joint Meeting (May 3–5, 2004)

Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 1:40 PM


DOWSE, Mary E., Department of Natural Sciences, Western New Mexico Univ, PO Box 680, Silver City, NM 88062-0680,

The Natural Science Department at Western New Mexico University (WNMU) offers degrees in several biology disciplines and in chemistry but only a minor in geology. The minor consists of 6 courses intended to provide students a broad introduction to the field of geology. Although the university has not yet mandated an assessment plan for minors it is to the benefit of the program to develop a plan for several reasons. The foremost reason is to ensure that the program prepares students for their future roles. A second goal is to provide input to improve instruction and as a guide for possible curriculum change. An additional reason is to have the data necessary to support the program during periodic program reviews.

The first challenge in developing an assessment plan for the geology minor at WNMU is that the students in the geology program include three groups: pre-service teachers; majors in other fields whose principal career goals are in some other area than geology; and students who wish to pursue a career in geology. It will be imperative to develop goals and objectives that serve all of these populations effectively. A preliminary planning tool has been to develop a skills matrix that illustrates what skills students should have upon completion of the minor. The matrix has been useful for determining and identifying when and where different skills will be introduced in the curriculum. Presently classroom assessment can be used to determine acquisition of specific skills and knowledge, but an overall plan for assessment of the geology minor has yet to be developed.

The small size of the minor (typically 6-8 students in classes) and a small number of graduates (about 2/year) will place constraints on the tools that can be employed in assessing the geology minor. Development of an assessment plan for the geology minor at WNMU has begun but there is still a vast amount of work to be done to design a program that will gather the data to meet the goals.