GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 74-9
Presentation Time: 3:55 PM


VISKUPIC, Karen, Department of Geosciences, Boise State University, Boise, ID 83725, EGGER, Anne E., Geological Sciences and Science Education, Central Washington University, 400 E. University Way, Ellensburg, WA 98926-7418, MCFADDEN, Rory R., Department of Geology, Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, MN 56082 and SCHMITZ, Mark D., Department of Geosciences, Boise State University, 1910 University Drive, Boise, ID 83725-1535

A goal of undergraduate geoscience programs is to prepare students for the geoscience workforce. In order to understand the extent to which programs succeed at this goal, we: (1) compiled required and elective courses from 67 Degree Program Profiles on NAGT’s Building Strong Geoscience Department website; (2) identified desired workforce skills from the Future of Undergraduate Geoscience Education survey and employers workshop; and (3) mapped skills onto faculty responses to the 2016 National Survey of Geoscience Faculty binned by respondent-provided course names for majors-level courses (n=1037).

We used a Bayesian statistical model to determine the posterior probability of students practicing desired workforce skills in undergraduate geoscience programs, using program profiles as the model prior, conditioned by the likelihood of a student practicing workforce skills in each course based upon survey responses. Probabilistic Monte Carlo simulations of students in each example program were used to calculate the likely number of times a student practiced each skill.

Activities to help students develop skills related to geologic reasoning, working as part of a team, quantitative skills (algebra), applying skills in new scenarios, evaluation of scientific literature, temporal thinking, spatial thinking, written communication, and managing uncertainty are frequently encountered by students; on average, students encounter these activities at least seven times as part of an undergraduate program. In contrast, students encounter activities to help them develop an understanding of societal relevance and systems thinking, on average, fewer than three times as part of an undergraduate program.

Our results provide a snapshot of the state of workforce skill development across undergraduate degree programs. The model framework and results may be used by individual programs as a tool for reflecting on where workforce skills are developed and for examining program structures that may improve student skill development.