UNDERSTANDING THE USE OF QUANTITATIVE SKILLS AND DATA ANALYSIS IN THE TEACHING OF UNDERGRADUATE GEOSCIENCES
This study uses data from a national survey of geoscience faculty, established by On the Cutting Edge, to examine the extent to which faculty include quantitative and data analysis skills in their courses. There have been four NSF-funded administrations of the survey in 2004, 2009, 2012, and 2016. For each administration, over 2000 faculty responded to the survey. Respondents reported on a specific course at either the introductory or majors level.
The 2016 survey results show that for majors courses, 87% of faculty (n = 1066) asked students to use algebra, 58% asked students to use statistics, and 45% asked students to use calculus. There was a decrease in the reported use of statistics between 2009 and 2012-2016. Whereas, there was a slight increase in the reported use of algebra and no change in the reported use of calculus from 2009 to 2012-2016. In 2016, the majority of faculty reported that students used data analysis skills in their majors course. 61% of faculty asked students to collect their own data and analyze them, 74% asked students to address uncertainty when interpreting data, and 66% asked students to evaluate assumptions in estimation, modeling, or data analysis.
Faculty asked students to use quantitative and data analysis skills less frequently in introductory courses. Only 35% of faculty (n = 1096) asked students to use statistics, 75% of faculty asked students to use algebra, 41% of faculty asked students to collect their own data and 44% asked students to evaluate assumptions.
These results indicate that the majority of geoscience majors courses include quantitative and data analysis skills, but there is room to enhance the focus on technical skills to better prepare students for the workforce and geoscience research. There is also a need to increase the use of these skills in introductory courses to improve students’ success in the geoscience major and to strengthen quantitative reasoning for non-scientists.