Feature Your Introductory Classes
Written by Carol Ormand, based on ideas compiled from the 2005 workshop on Developing Pathways to Strong Departments of the Future and the 2007 workshop on Strategies for Successful Recruitment of Geoscience Majors.
Engage Students in DOING Science
Resources from Starting Point: Teaching Entry-Level Geoscience
Integrate Examples of Career Opportunities
Among the many methods you can use to inform your students about career opportunities is to make information about geoscience careers an integral part of your course content. For example, each time you introduce a new course topic, you can spend a few minutes describing career opportunities in this subdiscipline. Similarly, each time you introduce a new course topic, you can describe a person who specializes in that subdiscipline.
Our pages on Professional Preparationinclude information on geoscience employment and links to several collections of profiles of geoscientists.
Address Socially Relevant Issues
Geoscience is uniquely poised to understand and help solve the grand challenges facing humanity today (Barron, 2007):
- Increasingly scarce natural resources paired with increasing consumption
- Climate change
- The degradation of environmental systems
- Earth hazards (earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, tsunami, hurricanes, etc.)
Utilize Your Best Faculty
Let's face the facts: most of the students in your introductory classes aren't planning to major in geoscience. If you want to persuade them to change their minds, you'll want to have your best teachers teach the introductory classes.
Develop Topical Courses
The essential concepts and skills for a geoscience major can be taught within the context of topical courses. Examples abound.
- All introductory courses in the Hamilton College Department of Geosciences are topical courses. Read more about them in this essay by Barb Tewksbury.
- Stanford University offers a wide variety of introductory geoscience courses. Download the 2007-2008 flyer (Acrobat (PDF) 572kB Feb27 08) (page three pictured at right).
- Persaram Batra at Mt. Holyoke College teaches a course on Human Dimensions of Climate Change: Past & Future
- Wayne Isphording at the University of South Alabama teaches a course on Forensic Geology
- Kurt Burmeister at the University of the Pacific teaches a course on the Geology of the National Parks
- Gary Solar at Buffalo State College offers a course on the Geology of New York State
- Joe Elkins at Bowling Green State University offers an interdisciplinary field course called GeoJourney
- Jean Hemzacek Laukant and Laura Sanders at Northeastern Illinois University designed and teach a course called Chicago Rocks!: Geology in the City
- Alan Whittington at the University of Missouri-Columbia teaches Natural Hazards & Catastrophes
Offer Entry-Level Courses that Satisfy Institutional Requirements
Familiarize yourself with your institution's graduation requirements. Are there introductory courses you could offer that would satisfy those requirements?
Florida International UniversityFIU requires every undergraduate student to take a life science course with a lab. Their Geology department teaches a "History of Life" course that satisfies this requirement, and this course has significantly increased their enrollments. Read about it in Brad Clement's 2005 AGU presentation. (PowerPoint 4.5MB Jan6 06)