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Department of Geology

Summary of the 2019-2020 Annual Progress Report on Assessment of Graduate Student Learning

The geology program assessed three learning outcomes for AY2019-2020: their understanding of career options appropriate to their degree, both within and outside the field (SLO4); their competence in written and oral presentations (SLO5); their experience in networking and understanding of the need for public awareness (SLO8). Following the advice of the Office of Assessment, we also defined new criteria to assess “diversity”: we sent a survey to Geology majors who had graduated, asking them to assess how well they felt their degree program had prepared them to deal with diversity of beliefs and opinions in a multicultural working world.

SLO4, SLO8 and diversity have been assessed through surveys sent to majors who had graduated before they left our department. We had only four answers to this survey. Although this number is similar to the numbers of answers during previous years, it is difficult to make reliable statistics with few data. 

For SLO4 and SLO8, the “above average” level of performance has increased. Our department has invested significantly in enhancing student understanding of career options appropriate to their degree, both within and outside the field (SLO4). According to the students, discussions with their advisor and professors, as well as with fellow students or recent graduates, have been the most helpful.

Student experience in networking and understanding of the need for public awareness (SLO8) has been facilitated through several networking opportunities. Students found that the most useful opportunities were (1) participation in department-sponsored clubs (e.g. Williston Geology, AAPG/SEG student chapter), (2) networking at national meetings, (3) attendance at departmental events (e.g. picnics, field trips). Our department has been providing financial aid for undergraduate students to attend national meetings. This funding is intended for undergraduate students who are presenting scientific results in such meetings.

This year we use new criteria to assess “diversity”. Therefore, comparison with previous data is not possible. We will continue to monitor “diversity” in our department, and think about solutions to make our department more diverse. However, due to social distancing, we do not expect improvements during the COVID pandemic.

Student competence in written and oral presentations (SLO5) has also been assessed this year. For the GEOL 560 course (Field Methods), two mapping projects have been taken into account. This allowed us to observe a noticeable improvement of students skills during the 2019-2020 academic year. When compared to previous years, competence has also increased. SLO5 has also been assessed for GEOL503 (Petrology). Student performance here is similar to previous years, although slightly down relative to previous years.  We believe this to be related to the technical difficulties associated with teaching this course in a wholly remote format, as discussed earlier.

Besides courses such Petrology (GEOL 503), which deal with major technical difficulties for remote teaching, we find that overall the grades reflect the students’ level .