North-Central Section - 42nd Annual Meeting (24–25 April 2008)

Paper No. 1
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM


FOOS, Annabelle, Department of Geology and Environmental Science, University of Akron, Akron, OH 44325-4101,

A number of geoscience departments are redesigning their curriculum in an effort to attract more majors. At the same time, their university administration is requiring they develop program assessment plans. Identifying and clearly defining a programs' learning objectives is essential to the successful completion of both these tasks. Learning objectives should be used to drive the program development and assessment processes. The learning objectives should define the knowledge and skills a student is expected to acquire by completing your program. Learning objectives may also be referred to as proficiencies. Most faculty have a general sense of what their students should know upon graduation. The difficulty arises when we try to articulate what it means to “think like a geologist” and come up with a concise list of learning objectives. Programs that are required to undergo accreditation frequently have a list of learning objectives that are defined by the accrediting body. As an example the Accrediting Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) list 11 “required student abilities.” Defining the learning objectives may be a difficult and time consuming task, however, once it is completed the tasks of program development and assessment become much easier. As an example, one learning objective for a program may be “develop the ability to interpret, manipulate, and present geologic data.” The next step (program development) is to identify the courses within the department that emphasize data analysis skills and insure that at least one of those courses is a program requirement. Finally this learning objective can be assessed by having the student successfully complete an assignment where they are required to analyze and graph a set of geologic data using an EXCEL spreadsheet.