General Education

Geology is, by definition, an interdisciplinary field and arguably the most multidisciplinary of the sciences. Successful geoscientists must think critically, evaluate data in terms of both qualitative and quantitative hypotheses, communicate proficiently in oral, written, and visual formats, and engage in complex three- and four-dimensional thinking. Geologists work with spatial data that range in scale from atomic to planetary recorded across temporal ranges from nanoseconds to billions of years. Accordingly, the Department of Geology embraces the goals and outcomes of the new general education model and three years ago began revising our curriculum to produce a more scientifically literate public through both our core and majors classes. Thus, since 2006 we have anticipated and/or accomplished changes in our delivery of general education courses by:

  • "Fast-tracking" majors and minors out of survey courses and into newly designed 2000-level courses.
  • Redesigning laboratory manuals for two introductory courses and implementing significant changes in a third.
  • Removing prerequisites from two 1000-level courses to facilitate their inclusion in themes.
  • Creating two new 1000-level courses (Introduction to Oceanography, Water: Mountains to the Sea).
  • Proposing two themes within geology (Restless Earth and Blue Planet).
  • Collaborating with the departments of Anthropology, Biology, and Geography & Planning to propose new multidisciplinary themes in science inquiry (Life, Earth and Evolution and Global Environmental Change).
  • Obtaining funds for a multidisciplinary course in water and environmental policy through the General Education program
  • Expanded our offerings in the Honors Program to include first-year honors seminars, one on Darwin, another on dinosaurs.
  • Development of a new, team-taught multidisciplinary course on the geologic, environmental, and social history and future of coal in the Appalachians for the Historical/Social Perspective (Appalachia theme) in conjunction with Appalachian Studies.
  • Providing a model course (Preparation of Geologic Reports) for the junior "Writing in the discipline" portion of the new curriculum.
  • Modifying our mandatory Senior Seminar course to reflect the requirements for a senior capstone experience.
  • Engaging in rigorous assessment activities, including a comprehensive senior exam for all majors prior to gradution. This requirement has been part of our curriculum for the past 25 years.

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