Graduation Year

2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.S.

Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)

Degree Granting Department

Geology

Major Professor

Henry L. Vacher, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Jeffrey G. Ryan, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jeffrey R. Raker, Ph.D.

Keywords

Geoscience Education, Interviews, Learning Outcomes, Numeracy, Quantitative Literacy

Abstract

Recent meetings and publications have discussed what geoscience undergraduates should learn for professional success, and among other items, have identified several quantitative skills and habits of mind as being necessary for geoscience students; many of these items are commonly associated with Quantitative Literacy (QL). The Computational Geology course in the geology department has been evolving at USF for 20 years. The course teaches QL in a geologic setting independent of specific core geology topics. This course has long preceded the national acknowledgment of the need for what it teaches within the field. As the first of a series of related studies intended to find the effect and role of this course within the geoscience community, this thesis study begins as a qualitative narrative inquiry of course and program alumni. In the study reported here ten USF Geology alumni from a variety of career paths who took GLY 4866 between 1997 to 2013 underwent semi-structured interviews recounting their memories of the course, discussing the benefits to them of the course in their careers, and outlining their views of what students should gain from this course for professional success.

The interview results illuminate trends that can be usefully grouped by job/career category. Regulators (3) had the shortest overall interview time, remembered the least in terms of specific events from the course, and had limited (but consistent) suggestions for student learning. Their memories and suggestions were also rarely unique. Consultants (3) were the median group in length, and showed overlap in the content of their interviews to regulators, with additional details added. Academics (4) had the longest interview times, the most detailed memories from the course, and the most suggestions, possibly due to these interviewees using similar methods in their later careers as course instructors. Consultants and academics related large blocks of story text that were unique while also relating common statements.

Narratives from professionally successful alumni were sought to gain greater detail on the likely impact of Computational Geology than surveys are likely to give. The responses of selected, successful alumni were also sought to help refine questions that are to be used later in surveys of a larger sample population of alumni and to a larger national audience of geoscientists regarding their undergraduate programs and how those programs prepared them with quantitative skills. The information that interview subjects provided about the educational needs for successful entry-level geology professionals were shaped into a series of suggestions for course and program improvement. Course and program improvement suggestions and questions for a proposed survey have been assembled both to improve the GLY 4866 offering at USF for broader dissemination and to contribute to broader discussion of strategies for improving the quantitative skills and learning of geoscientists.

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Geology Commons

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