GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 264-2
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


JACKSON, Danielle Omara, School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment, University of South Carolina, 701 Sumter Street, 617 EWS, Columbia, SC 29206 and RYKER, Katherine, School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment, University of South Carolina, 701 Sumpter Street, EWS 617, Columbia, SC 29208

Introductory courses serve as important recruiting grounds for geology majors, as well as places to train scientifically-literate citizens. We used the Theory of Planned Behavior (Ajzen, 1985) to explore why students enroll in a physical geology course based on their salient and accessible beliefs about taking the course, what other people think about their decision, and the degree to which they believe they had control over their course selection. Closed questions were adapted from two previous studies to identify potential majors and determine the extent to which perceptions of geology are tied to reasons for enrolling (Hoisch & Bowie, 2010; Gilbert et al., 2012).

Preliminary data was collected from 207 students in Spring 2019 and used to refine a Fall 2019 iteration of the survey, which will be used with approximately 300 physical geology students. All students received the same set of closed and demographic questions, but different open-ended questions based on last name. The class is broadly representative of typical physical geology courses at large, four-year colleges: less than 1% are geology/geophysics majors, the majority are unlikely to major in a natural science (88.89%) but are generally interested in science (63.77%), and are taking the class at least in part because it satisfies a general education requirement (35.9%). Perceived ease over other science classes (14.96%), recommendations of a friend or advisor (13.89%), and prior interest in the subject (11.54%) are all also important reasons for signing up, which is consistent with the results of Gilbert et al. (2012).

We share initial results of the survey, decisions made in the survey’s deployment to maximize data collection while minimizing survey burnout, and how this inductive process is being used to develop a closed-ended question suitable for rapid identification of potential majors and relevant beliefs about introductory geology.