Paper No. 32-14
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-5:30 PM
DESIGNING GEOLOGY AND GEOPHYSICS CURRICULA FROM THE GROUND UP
In the summer of 2014, the Texas A&M Department of Geology and Geophysics partnered with the Texas A&M Center for Teaching Excellence to implement TAMU’s curriculum revision process: a data-informed, faculty-driven, educational-developer-supported rebuilding of our degree programs and course offerings. The current curricula (B.S. and B.A. in Geology, B.S. in Geophysics) were put into place in 1997, following the merger of two separate departments. The needs and capabilities of the Department and the student body have changed significantly since that time: more than 50% turnover of the faculty, a rapidly-changing job climate for geologists and geophysicists, and a nearly five-fold increase in the undergraduate population to over 500 majors in Fall 2015. Surveys of former students, employers and faculty at other universities revealed more reasons to address the curriculum. Some of the most desired skills are also those at which our graduates feel and are perceived to be least prepared: oral communication and the ability to learn software packages (skills that are most challenging to teach with growing class sizes). The challenge facing the Department is to accommodate growing student numbers while maintaining strength in traditional instructor-intensive activities such as microscopy and field mapping, and also improving our graduates’ non-geological skills (e.g., communication, software use, teamwork, problem-solving) to insulate them from volatility in the current job market.
We formed the Curriculum Study Group, consisting of faculty, graduate students, advisors and curriculum experts, to gather and analyze data and define the knowledge and skill base a graduate of our department must have. In addition to conducting external surveys, this group interviewed current students and faculty to determine the strengths and weaknesses of our program. We developed program-learning goals that were further specified into over fifty criteria. For each criterion we defined several assessable measures of proficiency from novice to exemplary. From this matrix of measures, we are building the course descriptions that will define the new curricula, and will be developing assessment tools to gauge the success of our new program. We will present both the new curriculum and the design process.