DEVELOPMENT AND INITIAL RESULTS OF AN EXAM TO ASSESS LEARNING OUTCOMES FOR GEOLOGY MAJORS
The assessment exam is developed and graded collaboratively by the three faculty each year (e.g., the faculty member who teaches the structural geology course develops and grades the structural geology exam questions). There are two administrations of the exam each year. The first occurs early in the semester, allowing students to identify areas of weakness that they can address during the remainder of the semester; the second version of the exam is given during the final exam period. To inspire students to perform to their maximum capabilities, the exam counts for a significant portion of the class grade (first exam = 10%, second = 40%). In addition, a grade of 70% on the second exam is required to pass the capstone course, regardless of performance on other graded activities.
With the exception of physical geology and the capstone course, material from all required geology courses is covered on the exam. On the first day of the semester, students are given a review sheet listing the skills needed for each topic (e.g., for mineralogy: Define isotropic, uniaxial and biaxial minerals, draw the indicatrices, and correlate these to the crystallography of a mineral).
So far, the exam has allowed faculty members to get a gauge of what concepts and skills are or are not retained long-term by the students (preliminary results suggest there may be a time-lag effect, with students performing better on material from classes they took more recently; however, additional prerequisites and other factors may account for some or all of this difference). The exam is also used as the geology program’s main assessment tool to monitor student learning outcomes. In addition, the exam is excellent preparation for students who go on to take the Fundaments of Geology exam to obtain professional licensure. MU alums have traditionally performed very well on the FG exam, but hopefully the assessment exam will yield even better results in the future.