Assessment of learning outcomes in introductory geoscience classes at University of California, Irvine

Monday 11:30am-1:30pm UMC Aspen Rooms
Poster Presentation Part of Geoscience Education Research


Julie Ferguson, University of California-Irvine
Justin Shaffer, University of California-Irvine
All college students are required to take science courses, and many geoscience departments offer non-majors courses that fulfill these undergraduate science general education requirements. These courses represent an important opportunity to increase the level of understanding of geoscience and to teach scientific literacy skills in the broader undergraduate community. In order to determine whether students were acquiring geoscience content knowledge and/or developing scientific literacy skills, pre- and post-tests were administered to students enrolled in four large (~400 students) introductory geoscience classes at University of California, Irvine. The pre-test data provided a baseline for each class on the students' incoming scientific literacy and geoscience knowledge, and matched pre-post test were used to calculate learning gains over the 10-week-long courses. This information was then used in combination with data on class performance, gender, year of study, major, ethnicity, and incoming SAT scores, to identify groups of students who showed the greatest learning gains. Initial analyses suggest that non-major students enter undergraduate geoscience courses with several misconceptions about the climate system, plate tectonics, and ocean circulation. The long-term goal of this study is to create modules specifically designed to address weaknesses in scientific literacy skills and identify geoscience misconceptions which are not being addressed adequately in these classes.