Department of Geosciences

Learning Outcomes & Assessment

Description of Program: The Department of Geosciences is dedicated to the advancement of the Earth Sciences through education, public outreach and scholarly activities. We offer degrees in Geology, Environmental Geology, Teacher Education with an emphasis in geology. In addition, we also offer a certificate Geographical Information Systems (GIS). This variety of subjects helps prepare students for a wide range of career choices that includes geology, engineering, environmental studies, and GIS mapping. We are endowed with one of the finest natural laboratories in the United States that offers unparalleled field experiences in our classes. The quality of our program is measured in the continued successes of our graduates in graduate programs, industry, government agencies, and academia. Instructors in the Department of Geosciences are dedicated to providing a sound education in geological sciences, but we strongly encourage multidisciplinary studies and community-based activities. 

Geosciences Expected Outcomes of Learning 

Upon complete of a degree in the Department of Geosciences, students will have the ability to:

  1. Demonstrate a fundamental knowledge of key concepts and ideas related to the field of geology. Specifically, the students will: demonstrate an understanding of global plate tectonic processes, have the ability to identify earth materials (minerals, rocks, soils) and interpret their origins, recognize and interpret geologic structures, and be able to apply their knowledge and skills to interpret earth processes.
  2. Design and conduct a scientific research project. This will include the ability to generate clearly articulated scientific hypotheses, to demonstrate the use of multiple working hypotheses as an investigative method, perform a critical review of published literature, develop an appropriate experimental design to solve problems, collect and analyze original data, and draw tenable conclusions from this process. Students will be expected to develop a high level of integrity in the collection, analysis, evaluation, and presentation of data.
  3. Apply the concepts of both relative and absolute geologic time to aid in answering scientific questions related to geologic processes, biological evolution, and natural and anthropogenic landscape change.
  4. Effectively understand and interpret spatial relationships of geologic and geographic features. They should be able to understand and interpret Earth systems and complex system-scale interactions from the integration of diverse scientific data. Students will develop skills that will allow them to examine the distribution of earth features and interpret earth processes, and to effectively compile and use datasets to generate professional maps.
  5. Articulate their thoughts, both in writing and orally, to diverse audiences. Students should be able to write a research paper in a professional geologic style, and be able to give a professional geologic talk.
  6. Interpret geologic phenomena in the field. They are expected to obtain, apply, and critically interpret geology in the field. Students will have a fundamental understanding of how to use basic tools of the trade in geology to collect information in the field.
  7. Have a basic understanding of the application and presentation of data. Students will be able to develop skills using traditional and more modern tools to compile, assess, and present scientific data and information. They will also have an awareness of how to critically evaluate and analyze different types of data, consider the strengths and weaknesses of instrumental measurements, and assess analytical errors.

Assessment Strategies

Our strategies for assessment are centered on our two capstone courses at the senior level, Senior Seminar and Field Geology. Within the context of those two courses, the following will be assessed. The assessment tools are indicated in parentheses.

Research Methods and Senior Seminar

  1. Design a scientific study (assessment of tasks in Research Methods; assessment of thesis proposal by faculty advisor and Senior Seminar instructor).
  2. Apply scientific inquiry to solve a geologic problem (assessment of thesis proposal by faculty advisor and Senior Seminar instructor; assessment survey in Senior Seminar by Geosciences faculty and external reviewers).
  3. Data analysis and synthesis (assessment of thesis proposal by faculty advisor and Senior Seminar instructor; assessment rubric in Senior Seminar).
  4. Presentation of results in written format (writing assessment rubric compiled by Senior Seminar faculty advisor).
  5. Be able to explain the uncertainty and possible sources of error in data that they collect (assessment of thesis proposal by faculty advisor and Senior Seminar instructor; assessment survey in Senior Seminar by Geosciences faculty and external reviewers).
  6. Ability to communicate results in written format (writing assessment rubric compiled by Senior Seminar faculty advisor).
  7. Ability to communicate results in oral format (assessment survey in Senior Seminar by Geosciences faculty and external reviewers).
  8. Assessment of Geosciences program (Senior exit survey).

Field Geology

  1. Ability to use standard tools in the field (compass, Jacob’s staff, GPS) (assessment exercises in the field, field exams, and instructor assessment of projects).
  2. Ability to identify geologic features (minerals, rocks, structures, fossils, etc) and use them to understand the geologic history of a region (assessment exercises in the field, field exams, and instructor assessment of projects).
  3. Use topographic maps to locate features and interpret landscape (assessment exercises in the field, field exams, and instructor assessment of projects).
  4. Be able to interpret sub-surface geology based on surface observations by drawing a geologic cross-section (assessment exercises in the field, field exams, and instructor assessment of projects).
  5. Be able to make a geologic map on a topographic base, using field data each student collects (assessment exercises in the field, field exams, and instructor assessment of projects).
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