Building Strong Geoscience Departments > Curricula & Programs > Curriculum Design

Curriculum Design and Revision

The curriculum is the centerpiece of a geoscience program. As you build or revise your curriculum, which elements are essential? Which are optional? What are the goals of your program's curriculum? While the resources below probably won't answer these questions for you, they illustrate the answers other departments have reached, and some describe the process of getting there.

Map of the route for Bowling Green State University's GeoJourney field course. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Curriculum Design Strategies and Resources

Ideal Student Exercise

This exercise asks faculty members to write a recommendation letter for the ideal student graduating from their department. What skills, knowledge, experiences, and values should they have been exposed to or gained from going through the program? This visioning process helps the department as a whole to lay out its program-level goals explicitly and begin to think strategically about how to attain them.

A Matrix Approach to Curriculum Design

For many years, the Geology Departments at Carleton College and the College of William and Mary have utilized a "matrix approach" to assessing and revising their curricula. Rows of the matrix represent essential skills to be developed and columns represent courses within the core curriculum. This allows faculty to see where skills are developed and whether there are any "skills gaps" within the curriculum.

Curriculum By Design

The Department of Earth Sciences, Montana State University, implemented a top to bottom revision of its curriculum, guided by both philosophical and practical considerations. Dave Mogk describes both their approach and the result.

Beyond Earth System Science: An Approach for the 21st Century

This presentation, by Kip Hodges, was given at the April 2007 workshop on Connecting Geoscience Departments to the Future of Science: New Structures for Research and Curriculum. Kip's perspective is that Earth and space science are becoming increasingly multidisciplinary, oriented toward solving the grand challenges facing our society. Our programs, too, then, will need to become multidisciplinary, encouraging problem-solving. But finding solutions to problems will not be enough; we will also need to work with policy makers and communicate effectively with the public.

Keeping Curricula Current

This presentation, by Mary Savina, was given at theApril 2007 workshop on Connecting Geoscience Departments to the Future of Science: New Structures for Research and Curriculum. Mary describes the Carleton College Geology Department's approach to curriculum design and revision. Their faculty considers what skills their students will need, and focuses on developing those skills throughout the curriculum, so that students have many opportunities to practice.

Geology and the Liberal Arts

Barb Tewksbury, at Hamilton College, describes her department's approach to student recruitment in her presentation, Recruiting Broadly: Aiming Beyond the Career Geoscientist, (Acrobat (PDF) 57kB Oct28 07) from the 2007 workshop on Strategies for Successful Recruitment of Geoscience Majors. Focusing on how a geoscience degree is excellent preparation for a multitude of career options has guided their curricular design choices over the years.

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This talk lasts 21 minutes.

View the talk using Quicktime (Quicktime Video 234MB Dec3 07)

Geosciences at a Research University

Tim Bralower describes his department's approach to student recruitment in his presentation, Designing Attractive Programs, (Acrobat (PDF) 1.8MB Feb27 08) from the 2007 workshop on Strategies for Successful Recruitment of Geoscience Majors. Knowing that their students have a wide variety of interests and career aspirations, they offer a wide variety of degree programs in the geosciences. In particular, they've built some interdisciplinary programs around the expertise of their faculty in emerging fields.

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This talk lasts 18 minutes.

View the talk using Quicktime (Quicktime Video 623.2MB Dec3 07)

Departmental Benefits of Teacher Preparation Programs

These two case studies were written by participants at the 2007 workshop Geoscience Courses that Prepare Future Teachers (sponsored by the National Association of Geoscience Teachers) which took place at Carleton College. Dr. James Ebert (SUNY - Oneonta) and Dr. Rebecca Dodge (University of West Georgia) examine how their respective departments have adapted their curricula to serve pre-service and in-service teachers and sustain department viability.

Teaching in the Field Across the Curriculum

This part of the Teaching in the Field site from On the Cutting Edge speaks to how infusing field experiences into all aspects of the geoscience curriculum can help address programmatic goals for departments. It is also the jumping off point for a suite of pages throughout the rest of the Cutting Edge site which provide ideas and advice on how to teach particular subjects in the core curriculum in the field.

Collections: Course and Curriculum Profiles

We asked each participant in the 2007 Workshop on Connecting Geoscience Departments to the Future of Science: New Structures for Research and Curriculum to describe either a program/curriculum or a course in their department that connects to the future of science. We used the information they submitted to make

A collection of course profiles

A collection of curriculum profiles

References and Additional Readings

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