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Kaelyn Lagerwall Thesis Defense

October 16 @ 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm MDT

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Title: Where and how are undergraduate students developing dispositions needed for the geoscience workforce?

Abstract: Dispositions, such as the desire to learn, work ethic, initiative, and organization, are defined as internal attributes, attitudes, or values that stimulate action. Rather than being intrinsic traits, dispositions can be learned and are considered a dynamic and evolving arrangement of interconnected components. Dispositions are highly desired and valuable to the workforce, playing a critical role in gaining and maintaining employment; they are frequently mentioned in job advertisements for bachelor-level geoscientists. Therefore, it is important to understand where and how geoscience students are developing these dispositions as part of their degree programs. We surveyed faculty in geoscience departments at two institutions, asking them to identify which dispositions they intentionally have students practice in their courses. We collected survey responses for 36 undergraduate geoscience courses at both the introductory and majors levels. Faculty reported providing opportunities for students to develop one or more dispositions in 89% of the courses described. Opportunities to develop collaboration, attention to detail, and organization were most frequently reported by faculty. We conducted follow-up interviews with faculty to better understand the types of activities and strategies being used in geoscience courses to help students develop critical workforce dispositions. Analysis of the interviews led to the development of a framework for categorizing instructor-described strategies in terms of two characteristics: 1) active vs. passive strategies (were students engaged in an activity or passively receiving information); and 2) direct vs. indirect strategies (were students made aware of the dispositions they were developing by having them directly named or discussed). The majority of strategies described by faculty were indirect, meaning that students may not have been aware of, or focused on, the dispositions they were expected to develop. Many strategies were also passive, meaning that students were not engaged in discussion, reflection, or other activities to help develop a disposition. We provide examples and ideas for instructors interested in helping students develop dispositions.

Advisor: Karen Viskupic

Committee: Karen Viskupic, Mark Schmitz, Anne Egger