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Survey of Student Attitudes towards General Science and Geology

From the Geology Department, Dickinson College

Purpose

The Dickinson Geology Department, like many geoscience departments, would like to increase the number of majors in our department. The goal of the survey was to assess what it is that keeps students away. We were seeking information about students' perceptions of science prior to entering college and after they had taken an introductory course in Geology. We were also interested to know whether students lacked interest in all sciences or specifically geology. Lastly, we sought to determine what deterred students from geology and what could be done to make introductory courses more appealing.

Implementation

This survey was given to our introductory classes towards the end of the semester, on the same day they filled out the course evaluation. It was given to them as a pencil and paper instrument and since it was evaluation day there was a proctor in the room that was not the professor for the class.

Use of the Data

We are conducting a week-long summer study in July of 2009 to discuss the state of the department, the issues we are facing, and how the department could be improved. Having the perspective of introductory students, who are the greatest population that we teach, will be an asset to our discussion. In the future, this survey can continue to be used to find out about student perceptions and how we can go about improving their perceptions of geology.

Effectiveness

Considering it has only been implemented once to date, I think it has been very successful. Students responded openly, particularly to the question that required short response answers. Question 5 was the only question that caused some confusion, but I think that rewording the question would solve this issue. The goal of question 5 was to determine whether students lacked interest in all sciences (biology, chemistry, physics, geology, etc.) or only geology. We were still able to use responses from question 5 since students had to write an explanation for their response to question 5.

The rest of the questions provided great feedback. For example, we determined that while only 10% of the students in our introductory classes were planning to major in science when they arrived at college, 23% of students had considered continuing in geology while taking an introductory course. This was a noteworthy discrepancy, and demonstrates that student interest in science increases as a result of an introductorygeologycourse. These types of numbers are exactly what we were looking for and will help us to make decisions about the future of the department.

Instrument

Download the Survey on Geology and General Science Interest (Microsoft Word 21kB Jun22 09)

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