Unearthing Students' 21st Century Skills in a Geology Field Course

Friday 3:00pm-4:00pm
Poster Session Part of Friday Poster Session


Alyssa Abbey, California State University-Long Beach
Sara Dozier, California State University-Long Beach
Joseph Gutierrez, California State University-Long Beach
Field experiences have been shown to increase students' learning and retention of subject-specific skills (e.g., geology) as well as more "universal" or "transferable" skills (e.g., Paor & Whitmeyer; Alon & Tal, 2015; Hannula, 2019). However, students don't often realize that these universal skills are (A) being developed and (B) valued by potential employers just as much as - if not more than - subject specific skills. Using the UFERN (Undergraduate Field Experiences Research Network) model and a focus on student context factors, we have begun to make incremental changes to the summer field course at California State University Long Beach (CSULB), to increase emphasis on "universal" skills and guide students to become self-advocates for their learning and skill development. Course additions include: (i) dedicated time to think and reflect on skill development, (ii) "fire-side chats" to discuss topics like graduate school, industry jobs, preparation of application materials, etc., (iii) oral presentations in the field, and (iv) a final project requiring students to write an expanded cover letter. Through pre- and post-survey tools, we assess students' confidence in their geologic skills, scientific skills, and universal skills (Weston and Laursen, 2015). The post-survey also includes questions about which activities students felt helped with their development of these different skill sets. The final written assignment shows students' comfort with being self-advocates. Preliminary results from fourteen participants across two cohorts show that students are least confident in their ability to perform scientific skills, and that their self-reported confidence in their general science skills and their universal skills increase during the time they are in the field course. Eleven students shared graduate school or workplace application materials but did not write about these skills in their applications, even for skill areas which they self-reported feeling confident.