Comparing Desired Workforce Skills and Reported Teaching Practices to Model Students’ Experiences in Undergraduate Geoscience Programs

Document Type


Publication Date



A goal of undergraduate geoscience programs is to prepare students for the geoscience workforce. In order to understand the extent to which programs succeed at this goal, we identified desired workforce skills, compiled undergraduate geoscience program requirements, and mapped workforce skills onto faculty responses to the 2016 National Geoscience Faculty Survey categorized by respondent-provided course names for majors-level courses (n = 1037). We used a Bayesian statistical model to determine the posterior probability of students practicing desired workforce skills in undergraduate geoscience programs, using program profiles as the model prior, conditioned by the likelihood of a student practicing workforce skills in each course category based upon survey responses. Probabilistic Monte Carlo simulations of students in each example program were used to calculate the likely number of courses in which a student practiced each skill. Activities to help students develop skills related to geologic reasoning, working as part of a team, quantitative skills (algebra), applying skills in new scenarios, evaluation of scientific literature, temporal thinking, spatial thinking, written communication, and managing uncertainty are frequently encountered by students; on average, students encounter these activities at least seven times during an undergraduate program. In contrast, students encounter activities to help them develop an understanding of societal relevance and systems thinking, on average, fewer than three times during an undergraduate program. Our results provide a snapshot, via instructors’ reporting, of the state of workforce skill development across undergraduate degree programs, and both the approach and data set can be built upon for future studies.