2006 Philadelphia Annual Meeting (22–25 October 2006)

Paper No. 16
Presentation Time: 11:45 AM


KEITH, Jeffrey D., Department of Geological Sciences, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602 and THOMPSON, Kirsten, Department of Geological Sciences, Brigham Young University, Provo, 84602, jeff_keith@byu.edu

For several years we have wrestled to a draw, or a narrow victory, in our efforts to attract and retain undergraduate majors. Many strategies have been implemented, but student evaluations/interviews suggest that a few interventions seem to be more successful than others. Interviews with majors indicate that outstanding high school teachers and curricula are the key recruitment element for many of our best students. Consequently, improving the quality of secondary Earth system science courses, nationwide, is fundamental and is in the best interest of all. However, our individual department strategies for improving introductory geoscience teaching also show some promise and results. For example, we have replaced some of our large introductory geoscience sections (>100 students) with smaller (<30 students) all-class-time-in-the-field sections. Concurrently, we have restricted enrollments in our introductory online course. Our rationale is that field settings for class time allow students to integrate and discover many related Earth system science processes in the ultimate hands-on, inquiry-based setting. Comparing these three methods of teaching General Education (GE) geoscience classes (online, traditional classroom, and all-class-time-in-the-field) we found the average overall course ratings (on an 8 point scale) were respectively, “Very Good” (5.60), “Excellent” (6.26), and “Outstanding” (7.17). Will giving “outstanding” experiences to some GE students be more productive in recruiting new majors? Our numerical data are currently insufficient to verify this hypothesis, but anecdotal data affirm the strategy. Other strategies that also have helped in recruitment include hiring “professional” faculty members who are capable of providing “Outstanding” ratings in every section regardless of format. Our majors also report that their first field-intensive experience (of more than 2 weeks duration) cemented their decision to major in geoscience. Finally, we are in the process of offering more scholarships for incoming freshmen who agree to persist in the major through these field intensive courses.