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Career Goals

This material was originally created for On the Cutting Edge: Professional Development for Geoscience Faculty
and is replicated here as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service.
David Mogk, Montana State University
Course: Mineralogy
25-35 students
This survey of students' professional goals connects course topics to students' lives while also serving as an icebreaker.

The Activity

Students do a short (~10 minute), reflective writing assignment on:

  1. Write your own job description. Five years from now (or after you leave this program) what would be your ideal job? What do you hope to be doing?
  2. What knowledge should you have, what skills should you develop to help you achieve this goal? (I.e. what should you know, what should you be able to do?)
  3. How can this (mineralogy) course help you to achieve your professional goals?
I ask for a short paragraph in response to each question.

The writing assignment is followed by a 10-15 minute whole-class discussion of career aspirations, and knowledge/skills required to achieve these professional goals.

Additional Information

I use this short writing assignment in my first Mineralogy class of the term. This course is the "entry" class to the geology major, and the intent of the writing assignment is

  • to get to know the students, including their expectations and career goals,
  • to get the students to begin to think about their own career goals as they begin to prepare to be geoscientists, and
  • to establish the connections and relevance of mineralogy to the rest of the curriculum.

The discussion gives the students a chance to begin to meet their peers in the class, and to identify students with similar interests. This also gives students a chance to express their expectations about the content and skills they perceive they will have to master in the class. This is important because if the expectations of the students and faculty are divergent, you are setting yourself up for a difficult learning environment. It also encourages students to articulate the skills that they will need to succeed as a geoscientist--and this then gives you their consent to help them practice writing, quantitative skills, information skills, computer modeling, mineral and rock identification, etc. as regular class activities. This exercise also is a first attempt to get the students to "buy-in" to the course structure and content as it helps them see how this material can ultimately help them in their own professional development. Given these initial responses, I have the latitude to make some accommodation of these interests in the syllabus and in later class activities.

I collect and review the students' written answers, but I let them know in advance that their answers will not be graded.