Backward (Re)design of Curricula in Geology and Geophysics

Thursday 4:30pm-5:30pm Red Gym
Poster Session


David Sparks, Texas A & M University
Julie Newman, Texas A & M University
Debra Fowler, Texas A & M University
The Texas A&M Department of Geology and Geophysics partnered with the Texas A&M Center for Teaching Excellence to implement CTE's curriculum revision process: a data-informed, faculty-driven, educational-developer-supported rebuilding of our degree programs and course offerings. Our faculty of ~30 teach an undergraduate population that has grown to over 550 majors. We undertook the first complete re-examination of our B.S. degrees in Geology and in Geophysics since 1997 in order to adapt to rapidly changing enrollment pressures and to ensure that our graduates have a foundational training that will better prepare them for a shifting job market. Surveys of our faculty, current and former students, employers and faculty at other universities revealed that some of the most desired skills (oral communication and the ability to learn software packages) are also those at which our graduates feel least prepared. Enhancing these skills at a time of larger class sizes required us to consider how those skills are delivered and integrated throughout the program.

We formed the Curriculum Study Group, consisting of faculty, recent graduates, advisors and curriculum experts, to gather and analyze data and define the knowledge and skill base a graduate of our department must have. We identified over forty indicators of knowledge and skills and grouped them into eleven program-level learning goals. For each indicator, we defined four assessable measures of proficiency (course-level learning outcomes) from novice to exemplary. From this matrix of measures, we built course descriptions that define the new curricula, and we are developing assessment tools to gauge the success of our new program. The major changes in curricula include: 1) distributing existing field experiences throughout the four years of the program; 2) strengthening communication skills in classes throughout the degree; and 3) creating a series of senior capstone courses focused on team-based research projects.