Initial Publication Date: June 5, 2019

Program/Department Development

Goals for change at the program/department level

  • Increase success rates of students in our introductory geoscience course
  • Broaden participation of diverse groups in geoscience careers


To work toward our first goal, we have been employing several different strategies to support student success in our individual courses, including teaching students metacognition skills and utilizing various types of active learning. One project we have been working on with all of our geology faculty members is to develop a detailed list of student learning objectives (SLOs) for our introductory geology course. We have been teaching that course with a set of 14 overall course objectives that we developed as a group many years ago. However, this list was too broad to really be useful to our students. So we took each course objective and broke it down into a series of topic specific SLOs, which were aligned with action verbs according to Bloom's Taxonomy, and useful for teaching individual lessons. We also had discussions about which of the specific SLOs we each covered in class, to help us better understand how we were approaching the breadth vs. depth of information in the course. The final list of SLOs is a powerful tool that we are now using to align with our class activities and assessments through the process of backwards design. The SLOs are also being shared with the students, so they have a good understanding of the material they are expected to learn throughout the course.

Our main strategy for broadening participation and facilitating professional pathways in geoscience has been through a partnership with North Carolina State University (NC State) and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (NCMNS), who provide our students with paid summer research experiences and mentoring. This work has been supported by a National Science Foundation GeoPaths grant and involves all of our geology faculty members (link to GeoPaths Project Description). Wake Tech students who have an interest in geoscience are given mentoring and the opportunity to conduct research at one of our partner institutions. Students are expected to present their research at an end of summer poster symposium. Additionally, our program provides funding for our students to participate in professional socialization and outreach activities to increase the visibility of geoscience careers. We have completed the first two of three total years of this project.


As a group, our geology faculty members work to track data on overall success rates in our classes, as well as success rates on specific topics. We also work together to develop interventions to help support student learning, so the activities we have pursued with the SAGE 2YC project are a natural fit for us. We have only recently (Spring 2018) completed the detailed SLOs for our introductory geology course and our faculty members are currently working on alignment of the SLOs with other aspects of their teaching, so we do not have specific outcomes to report yet. However, we hope to see an end to some of the downward trends in success data that we have been monitoring over the past several years, which have been partially the result in changes to when students take our courses in their educational pathway.

Our GeoPaths project has been highly successful during the first two years (2017 and 2018). The number and diversity of applicants increased from the first to the second year of the project, and a total of 20 students completed research projects in the first two summers. Eight of these students also traveled to a national geological conference with some of our faculty members for a second opportunity to present their research posters, as well as the opportunity to participate in their first professional conference. Other students have been given the opportunity to attend local events to experience professional socialization. The students have overwhelmingly reported positive experiences from their participation in these activities. Twelve additional students have begun conducting geoscience research projects during Summer 2019.