Assessing students' perceived skill acquisition and growth in a face-to-face geology field camp

Monday 2:15pm Tate 101


Lancen Tully, University of South Carolina-Columbia
Katherine Ryker, University of South Carolina-Columbia
Dave Barbeau, University of South Carolina-Columbia
Geology field camp (field camp) is a required part of the undergraduate curriculum at many geology programs in the United States. Field camp is generally a capstone course for juniors and seniors where students apply classroom knowledge in real-world settings. Field camps are typically residential in nature, with students and instructors living and working together for several weeks often surrounded by the geology they study. Previous work indicates the geoscience community places high value on field camp and that field-based experiences increase geoscience concept learning, but concerns about logistics, liability, and accessibility exacerbated by the Covid pandemic make the field camp enterprise more challenging. Given these obstacles, it is important to assess the impact that field camp has on the next generation of geoscientists. Does participating in field camp change student self-perceptions of themselves as scientists through the development of technical and interpersonal skills? Are students transformed in avenues unrelated to their future geoscience careers? Can these changes be quantified?
To address these questions, a 48-item, 7-point Likert scale survey based on the NAGT learning outcomes for capstone field experiences was developed. The survey was administered to a group of undergraduate geology students (n=16) pre- and post-field camp intervention. Students additionally completed a series of open-ended reflection questions post-intervention. Significant increases in normalized gains were observed for technical (+55%) and interpersonal (+43%) skills. Among the NAGT learning outcomes, students reported increases in designing strategies for data collection (+60%), interpreting past, current, and future processes for earth systems (+54%), working independently and collaboratively (+44%), and the development of "grit" (+40%). Student reflections strongly support the survey results. Students reported growth in geoscience and interpersonal skills, and common themes included improved confidence, well-being, and gratitude. These results show that field camp continues to be a transformative element of development for undergraduate geoscientists.