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American Geological Institute

2001 AGI Geoscience Associate's Conference

Breakout Group #3 Report

That we need to defend and re-establish continuous field education for all geoscience majors, including major field experience(s).

Notes:  This comes under the changing needs category because of increased stresses on field education due to competing technologies, liability and access problems, and cost (in money, energy and time) of field education relative to classroom instruction.

We agreed that field education was important throughout a student's career, and should not be restricted to early or late field experiences.

Major field experiences involving the active investigation of geologic processes are integral to a complete geologic education.  The group felt that these were optimally done in a multi-week, dedicated field camp experience.

Corporate Expectations


Notes:  The industry representatives in the group strongly urged that we emphasize the fundamentals of field investigation, particularly exposure to diverse geologic settings and mapping exercises. The participants were clearly of one mind on this.  We all indicated  that introduction to specific technologies is important, but might be better handled in field methods courses and in specific, discipline-centered classes rather than in a field camp external to the university.  On this basis, we then talked about what sort of fundamentals should be covered.  We divided them into cognitive fundamentals and fundamental skills.

Cognitive Fundamentals

Introduce diverse geologic relationships

Notes: this includes field trips throughout the curriculum.  Diversity is essential for a complete geologic education.

Practice doing science

making observations

formulating problems and multiple hypotheses

testing hypotheses

interpreting and concluding

Notes: We agreed that one of the most important things that we can give ALL our students, regardless of their final career choice,  is a solid foundation in science. I relayed the messahe given to me by a first year student at Harvard Law School.  He said that the people who do best at law school are those with a science background, not a pre-law background. 

Scientific approaches can be taught in lectures and by example, but will only really take hold if students are given the opportunity to actively practice scientific methods.  The field is an ideal place for this, with ample opportunities to see the effects of biasing and to practice explicit definition of problems, formulation of multiple working hypotheses and other scientific approaches.

Apply geologic principles

Notes: The application of geologic principles in the field solidifies classroom learning and brings great excitement to the learning process.

Fundamental Skills

Mapping: generally considered to be the best way to learn geologic relationships.

Field techniques (e.g., data collection)

Communication - written, graphical and oval: essential for professional success

Photo interpretation

Introduce High Tech Tools (ETS/GPS/GIS)

Notes: The group felt that these were important to teach but may be better taught in small groups in a traditional class room setting where expensive instruments can be used by sub-sets of the class rather than trying to get enough instrumentation so that all students in a field class can be actively engaged at the same time. There was a strong feeling that location tools (e.g., GPS) be used to augment, not replace, map reading skills.

 Field Navigation and Logistics


Team Work

Independent Thinking

Notes: these last two items seem contradictory but can be easily achieved by mixing individual and group projects.

Strategies for dealing with smaller enrollments Merging with other universities

Inclusion of other disciplines





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