10 April 2013

Core skills for geology majors

Posted by Jessica Ball

A recent discussion that I’ve been having with my fellow grad students lately has been about this question: What are the core skills undergraduate geoscience students should have when they graduate?

Sometimes, because of crazy course schedules, majors joining the department late in their college career, etc etc., it seems like skillsets can be acquired haphazardly or in an order that doesn’t benefit the student. Those of us who teach as grad students sometimes find that it’s necessary to do more review than we’d expect when we’re dealing with a lab or a course. Although review isn’t a bad thing, it can take away time from the main course topics. As a teacher, my goal is to get my students to learn the course material as effectively and efficiently as possible – and make it stick.

So, like any good geoblogger, I’m going to ask for help ‘crowdsourcing’ the answer to this question. If you could put together a guide of core skills for geology students, what would be on it? What do you want them to know before they attempt specific classes? What should they know by the time they graduate to be well-grounded in the field?

I’ve started a Google document called Geoscience Core Skills Checklist. It’s divided it into two sections: a generic checklist for skills I think a major should have when they graduate, and a list of specific core classes (and a few electives) that a geoscience major might take. At the moment these are based on curriculums that I’m familiar with from my undergrad and grad schools, but there’s certainly room for more. I’ve started off each course with a few basic skills I’d expect a student to have before they were allowed to attempt it.

What I’d love is for any of you to go and edit this list – add your own must-haves, qualifications, and comments. Even if you’ve not taught geology at the college level, if you’ve been in a college-level geoscience course, what do you think you took away from it (or should have)? What do you wish you’d learned better (or not at all)? What prerequisites does your department have for each of these core courses (if any?) Feel free to edit the document anonymously, or sign your name or initials to a particular comment so I know who left it. If you don’t have time to edit the document, chime in on the subject in the comments section (even a sentence or two will be a big help). Or, if you prefer, tell me on Twitter (@tuff_cookie)!

It would be really great if I could get a variety of responses and a lot of input for this – it’s a thought exercise that I’m working on with some of the other grads in my department, and it may come in very handy for us in the future!