The use of data analysis and quantitative skills in undergraduate geoscience courses

Thursday 3:00pm Ritchie Hall: 366


Rory McFadden, Gustavus Adolphus College
Karen Viskupic, Boise State University
Cathy Manduca, Carleton College
Anne Egger, Central Washington University
Ellen Iverson, Carleton College
Quantitative tools and data analysis techniques are important for the success of geoscience majors in a variety of careers, and are important for many non-scientists who need quantitative reasoning skills for succeeding in society.

In four administrations of a national survey of geoscience faculty in 2004, 2009, 2012, and 2016, faculty reported on the extent to which they included quantitative and data analysis skills in a specific course at either the introductory or majors level. Over 2000 faculty responded to each survey administration.

The 2016 survey results show that for majors courses, 87% of faculty (n = 1066) asked students to use algebra, 58% asked students to use statistics, and 45% asked students to use calculus. The reported use of statistics decreased between 2009 and 2012-2016, but there was a slight increase in the reported use of algebra and no change in the reported use of calculus. In 2016, 61% of faculty asked students to collect and analyze their own data, 74% asked students to address uncertainty when interpreting data, and 66% asked students to evaluate assumptions in estimation, modeling, or data analysis.

Faculty asked students to use quantitative and data analysis skills less frequently in introductory courses. Only 35% of faculty (n = 1096) asked students to use statistics, 75% of faculty asked students to use algebra, 41% of faculty asked students to collect their own data, and 44% asked students to evaluate assumptions.

These results indicate that the majority of geoscience majors courses include quantitative and data analysis skills, but there is room to enhance the focus on technical skills to better prepare students for the workforce. There is also a need to increase the use of these skills in introductory courses to improve students' success in the geoscience major and to strengthen quantitative reasoning for non-scientists.

Presentation Media

McFadden 2018 EER (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 3.1MB Jul19 18)

Presentation Media

McFadden EER 2018 (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 3.1MB Jul19 18)