GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 40-3
Presentation Time: 2:15 PM


MEHRTENS, Charlotte, Department of Geology, University of Vermont, 180 Colchester Ave, Burlington, VT 05405, WEBB, Laura E., Department of Geology, University of Vermont, 180 Colchester Ave., Burlington, VT 05405, HARRINGTON, Susanmarie, Department of English, University of Vermont, Old Mill, Burlington, VT 05405, DESANTO, Daniel, Department of Information and Instruction, Bailey Howe Library, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05405 and BERMAN, Elizabeth, Department of Information and Instruction, Bailey-Howe Library, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05405,

The Geology Department at the University of Vermont participated in a campus pilot program to improve student skills in writing and information literacy. The pilot program, termed WILD (Writing and Information Literacy in the Disciplines) is based on the concept that communication skills needed by geology students are best developed when formally identified in the curriculum and integrated with course learning outcomes. Working with faculty colleagues in the Writing in the Disciplines Center, a geology faculty liaison to the team crafted a survey instrument for faculty, students, and community partners that helped identify the skills in writing and data acquisition/analysis needed by geoscientists. Survey results were used to develop six learning outcomes in these areas. Geology undergraduates will be able to: concisely communicate observations and data using appropriate vocabulary; design and create figures, graphs, diagrams, that convey information and concepts; create new information based on field/laboratory studies and catalogue this data such that it is available to others; craft an interpretation based on data and explain its significance in a geologic context; gather information from peer-reviewed literature and on-line data bases and represent sources of information fairly and accurately; and translate complex concepts, data or terminology to a variety of audiences. The department mapped its curriculum, identifying which learning outcomes were addressed, and at what level (introduced, reinforced, mastered) for all geology courses. This curriculum map highlighted several of the learning objectives that were well sequenced from introduction early in a student’s geology course work to sophistication by the senior capstone experience. Some learning objectives lacked sequencing which lead to the department’s review of course sequencing and pre-requisite structure. In some cases, assignments that focused on writing and information literacy had to be developed within specific courses so that there would be opportunities for students to continue improvement in a particular learning objective. We are currently developing an assessment strategy, utilizing focus groups and portfolio review, to determine the degree to which the WILD program in Geology is impacting student learning.