• Harvey Thorleifson, Chair
    Minnesota Geological Survey
  • Carrie Jennings, Vice Chair
    Minnesota Geological Survey
  • David Bush, Technical Program Chair
    University of West Georgia
  • Jim Miller, Field Trip Chair
    University of Minnesota Duluth
  • Curtis M. Hudak, Sponsorship Chair
    Foth Infrastructure & Environment, LLC


Paper No. 1
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM


MANDUCA, Cathryn A., Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College, 1 North College Street, Northfield, MN 55057, BRALOWER, Timothy J., Department of Geosciences, Pennsylvania State University, 503 Deike Building, University Park, PA 16802, CLEMENS-KNOTT, Diane, Department of Geological Sciences, California State University, Fullerton, CA 92834, DOSER, Diane, Univ Texas - El Paso, El Paso, TX 79968, FEISS, P. Geoffrey, GSA Foundation, 3300 Penrose Place, Boulder, CO 80301, MACDONALD, R. Heather, Department of Geology, College of William and Mary, PO Box 8795, Williamsburg, VA 23187, ORMAND, Carol J., Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College, 1 North College St, Northfield, MN 55057, RHODES, Dallas D., Department of Geology and Geography, Georgia Southern University, 62 Georgia Avenue, Statesboro, GA 30460-8149, RICHARDSON, Randall M., Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721-0077 and SAVINA, Mary E., Geology, Carleton College, 1 N. College St, Northfield, MN 55057,

We can understand what students’ are learning in geoscience programs from two points of view: by analyzing what we are teaching and by analyzing how students’ thinking changes as a result of our programming. To continually improve undergraduate geoscience education within a department requires that these two types of analysis be brought together with an understanding of the goals of the program.

Geoscience departments offer a wide variety of majors and inter-departmental programs reflecting a range of program goals from the development of geologists, geographers, geochemists, biogeoscientists and geophysicists for work in industry, government research and academia to the development of policy makers, environmental consultants, teachers, and sustainability experts. Articulating the goals of a program is the first step toward understanding if students are achieving the desired learning. Performing a SWOT analysis or imagining the ideal student on the day of graduation can initiate a discussion of program goals.

The alignment of program goals with course offerings lies at the heart of designing strong educational programming. Developing a matrix with learning opportunities on one axis and learning goals on another or a curriculum map showing the pathways of students through the curriculum to the awarding of a degree are two techniques that support this alignment.

Strong alignment of goals and programming does not ensure that students are mastering the desired knowledge and skills. This requires an investigation into the response of the students to the programming. Increasingly, all academic institutions are being asked to assess student learning within their programs. Assessment data can answer questions like “Is our well-designed program working as intended?” or “Are the students learning what I think I am teaching?” Departments have taken a wide variety of approaches to answering these questions including exit interviews and examinations, portfolios, and rubrics to evaluate senior level work, field work, and research presentations. Logic models can be used as a tool for designing program evaluation. This poster will highlight resources available on the Building Strong Departments website that support the design and evaluation of undergraduate geoscience programs (

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