Quantitative skills in courses for geoscience majors

Poster Session Part of Wednesday Poster Session


Eric Baer, Highline Community College
Rory McFadden, Gustavus Adolphus College

Application of quantitative skills in geoscience courses is a source of frustration for many faculty and a significant barrier to students. One response is to remove quantitative content from geoscience courses. However, this non-solution is problematic for many reasons: it masks the data-rich, quantitative nature of geoscience, it deprives students of critical training needed in future careers and programs, and it reinforces the misconception that mathematical techniques are not needed or useful to geoscientists. Even where quantitative skills are used, students may find it difficult to apply mathematical techniques and skills in an Earth science context, having only practiced these skills in mathematics or statistics courses. Whereas incorporating quantitative skills into Earth science problems may enhance students' understanding of concepts.

One difficulty in supporting faculty and their students may be the lack of communication about quantitative skills between geoscience disciplines. While some courses may use novel or unusual quantitative skills, many use the same skills such as basic statistical analysis, algebraic manipulation, and more. By communicating the importance of these skills and supporting students to see the connections across classes, we believe some of the frustrations that lead to the removal of quantitative skills may be reduced. In addition, repeated exposure to specific quantitative skills is an effective pedagogical approach.

We invite you to give input, either through an online survey or at EER, indicating what quantitative skills you use or would like to see used in various geoscience majors' courses. We will use this information to identify opportunities to support quantitative skill development in geoscience undergraduates that are used across multiple courses.