Heads & Chairs Workshop: Future of Undergraduate Geoscience Education

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday 8:30am-11:30am Student Union: Fiesta A and B


Sharon Mosher, The University of Texas at Austin
This workshop is specifically designed for geoscience department heads, chairs, and other administrative leaders. The NSF sponsored initiative on the "Future of Undergraduate Geoscience Education" engaged a diverse spectrum of the geoscience academic and employer community and has developed a wide consensus on the skills, competencies, and conceptual understandings undergraduates need to be successful in graduate school and the future workforce and effective methods of producing these learning outcomes in undergraduate geoscience programs. This workshop is open to both participants and non-participants in the 2016 Heads/Chairs Summit. Those who were participants will have the opportunity to discuss their progress, provide insight and advice on successful and unsuccessful strategies, and further develop on their own action plans. New participants will have the opportunity to discuss results of this national effort, learn strategies for implementing changes in undergraduate programs, and develop an action plan for their own department. Participants can apply for partial or full support as needed; a brief application can be found at: http://www.jsg.utexas.edu/events/future-of-geoscience-undergraduate-education/

See the Workshop Program and Resources

Link to the Participant Workspace (private)


The NSF sponsored initiative on the "Future of Undergraduate Geoscience Education" engaged both the geoscience academic and employer communities to develop a broad consensus on the skills, competencies and concepts needed for undergraduate geoscience majors to be successful in the workplace and in graduate school and on effective methods of producing these learning outcomes in undergraduate geoscience programs. The outline of needed concepts and skills has sufficient granularity that departments can evaluate their courses, curriculum and programs to see whether their students are prepared and to identify gaps that need to be filled. Heads and Chairs who attended the 2016 Summit discussed implementation strategies for incorporating these skills, competencies and concepts into their departments' undergraduate curriculums and programs and developed individual action plans for their program. This workshop will provide a similar opportunity for heads and chairs who did not participate in the 2016 Summit to learn more about the skills, competencies, and concepts that the wider geoscience academic and employer community recommends, discuss implementation strategies, and develop their own departments' action plan. They will benefit from being able to discuss strategies with heads and chairs who already have experience trying them. For those who participated in the 2016 Summit, this workshop will provide the opportunity to discuss ongoing issues, roadblocks and successes with others who have been tackling the same types of curricular reform, as well as to help those just starting to develop on action plans.

Target Audience

This workshop is for department Heads and Chairs or undergraduate program directors who are interested in transforming their undergraduate curriculum to meet the needs of their students for future employment and/or graduate school. The workshop is open to both participants and non-participants of previous Summits on the Future of Undergraduate Geoscience Education.


The goal of the workshop is to share the recommendations of the academic and employer community with department heads and chairs and to work together to formulate plans for effectively implementing changes to curricula and programs. Experience of heads/chairs who have already started implementation of action plans will in identifying successful strategies and overcoming common obstacles and roadblocks. The long-term goal of this initiative is to improve undergraduate geoscience education across the country so that undergraduate students are prepared for their future careers.

During the workshop and associated Rendezvous opportunities, each participant will:

  • Be introduced (or reintroduced) to and discuss the recommended concepts/skills/competency outcomes for undergraduate students.
  • Discuss effective strategies and best practices for implementation of the community's recommendations.
  • Develop an individual action plan for their department.
  • Explore effective pedagogies for increasing student learning outcomes.


The workshop will have 3 half day (8:30 – 11:30 am) sessions. Each session will start with an introduction of the days' topic, followed by small group (<10) breakout sessions and then entire group reporting and discussion. The first session will focus on the geoscience community consensus on concepts, skills, competencies needed by undergraduates, as well as methods for instilling these learning outcomes, with focus on how these map to their own undergraduate programs. The second session will focus on implementation strategies. During the third session, each participant will develop an individual plan for their department and discuss it with the other participants.

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