Paper No. 247-1
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM
A QUALITATIVE STUDY OF “COMPUTATIONAL GEOLOGY” AT USF – A QUANTITATIVE LITERACY COURSE PREPARING UNDERGRADUATES FOR THE WORKFORCE SINCE 1996
GLY 4866, “Computational Geology,” is a Quantitative (capital-Q) Literacy course that has been offered annually to undergraduate geology majors at the University of South Florida in Tampa since 1996. The course, which has had a Calculus-1 prerequisite, focuses on problem solving in a geologic context, with a goal of improving student comfort with numeracy (numbers, equations, and calculations), quantitative literacy (verbal and graphic communication), and quantitative reasoning (critical thinking habits of mind). Recent meetings and surveys (e.g., the Summits on the Future of Undergraduate Geoscience Education) have identified similar skills and habits of mind as being vital for geology undergraduates to learn. Ten professionally successful course and program alumni, who took the course between spring 1997 and fall 2013, were given anonymity and interviewed about their memories of the course, how they have used the material since graduating, and what they now would suggest students should learn. This presentation collects our findings on how the course has prepared those alumni for work. Interviewees included public sector regulators (3), private sector environmental consultants (3), and a mix of instructors and graduate students in academia (4). All individuals and groups reported using what they learned in the course extensively since graduating – including in their personal lives. Interviewed regulators consistently mentioned frequent use of unit conversions and Microsoft Excel spreadsheet skills. Academics outlined – in unique and colorful stories – how they internalized what they learned and have adapted it into what they teach. Consultants exhibited a mixture of the other two groups’ outcomes, along with a heavy emphasis on the ability to communicate and organize numbers and data. Detailed quotations are extracted from the transcripts to illustrate answers to the “What?” and the “How?” of the use of the course material in these alumni’s subsequent professional careers.