Assessing Undergraduate Curriculum through Student Exit Vectors

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One aspect of assessing the undergraduate curriculum is recognizing that the exit vector of the student is a metric in the absence of a structured assessment program. Detailed knowledge across all geosciences departments regarding the disposition of their recent baccalaureate recipients has been at best inconsistent, and in the case of about half of geoscience programs, non-existent. However, through examining of multiple datasets, a pattern of disposition of geosciences BS recipients emerges, providing a snapshot of the system-wide response to the system-wide "average" program.

This pattern can also be juxtaposed against several frameworks of desired skill sets for recent graduates and the employment sectors likely to hire them. The question remains is can one deduce the effectiveness of the undergraduate program in placing graduates in their next step, whether in graduate school or the workplace.  Likewise, with an increasing scrutiny on the "value" of an education, is the resulting economic gain sufficient for the student, such that programs will be viewed as sustainable.  A factor in answering this question is the importance of the undergraduate program in the ultimate destination of the professional.  Clear pathways exist for "optimal" schools for the production of new faculty and new industry professionals, but is it possible to identify those trends further up the educational pipeline?

One major mechanism to examine the undergraduate program effectiveness related to exit vectors is to look at hiring trends witnessed related to markedly different program structures, such as those at universities outside of the United States. Rectifying academic programs between the United States and other national systems is often a challenge, but even given the substantial differences between depth of technical knowledge and breadth of education across these programs, in the end, the sum product is often viewed as roughly comparable. This paper will look at end-of-baccalaureate vectors in several countries, including Australia and South Africa, and how it reflects on the structure of their programs, how the programs align with the country’s professional needs, and the ability for the undergraduate geosciences system to provide the key intellectual feedstock for sustaining the geosciences discipline in these countries.

  • Christopher Keane*
  • Leila Gonzales*
  • Cindy Martinez*
  • American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting 2008