Bucknell University Department of Geology
by Christopher Daniel
Departmental Strengths and Weaknesses
At present the Department of Geology consists of 5 tenured faculty, 2 tenure-track faculty and a 1-year Visiting Assistant Professor. We have an academic assistant and a lab coordinator. Our strengths include
- All faculty are active and engaged in undergraduate teaching, research and service, and we teach within our areas of specialization.
- Modern instrumentation including a new flume 40'L 8'W 3'D that will come online later this summer, a modern ESEM with EBSD, EDS, and CL, a research grade XRD, a well field, sediment particle size analyzer, updated geophysical equipment, and a relatively new building (2002).
- Great support from the administration over the last 9 years.
- A great student population with access to great field sites.
Our department has three areas that need improvement.
- Building up an endowed fund to support international field trips and student/faculty research travel.
- Revising our curriculum.
- Improving our outcomes assessment methods.
During this workshop, I hope to learn about both curriculum and assessment development experiences in other departments. My department needs to better integrate classes taught by our new faculty into the curriculum and take better advantage of our strengths in field geology and undergraduate research. We are also discussing a departmental name change to better communicate to non-geologists and potential majors the environmental aspects of our program. Our curricular revision comes at a time when the university is shifting to a credit-hour system and the College of Arts & Sciences recently approved a new College core curriculum that changes the required number of lab science courses from two to one for all students.. I seek feedback on our draft curriculum and our recently developed "outcomes assessment" document and on devising meaningful assessment techniques.
The department generally works by building consensus. At times this is cumbersome but helps maintain a strong working relationship among the faculty. Fall of 2008, the acting chair initiated the discussion and drafting of our departmental outcomes based upon input from all Geology faculty. In the spring of 2009, I returned as chair and the department continued to revise the outcomes document following a 1/2 day workshop on assessment led by Julie Libarkin. We recently submitted the outcomes document to the administration but we still seek to modify and improve this document as we revise our curriculum and assessment methods.
This spring I initiated the disussion about revising the our curriculum. I met individually with all Geology faculty to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the Geology curriculum. I drafted a proposed curriculum that was discussed and modified at subsequent departmental meetings. At present, we have a working draft of a new curriculum and further discussion will occur with the start of classes in the fall.
Summary of Departmental Review
Our most recent review was in the '02-'03 academic year. Comments about the faculty, building, instrumentation and curriculum were favorable. Concerns expressed at that time included our relatively high teaching load (3-3 v. 3-2, at present) and the need for greater financial support for undergraduate and faulty research, and potential programmatic overlap with the Environmental Studies program. Another area of concern was the trade-off between 4-hour field based labs and shorter 2-3 hour labs, given the high number of contact hours for Geology faculty.