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GEO2YC Field Studies Position Paper

This is a draft position paper established by the Geo2YC Division in advocating the importance of field-based education, field studies, and field trips in student learning at two-year colleges. It is the intent of the Geo2YC Division to distribute the final version of the position paper to interested parties, administrators at two-year colleges, universities, industry, policy makers, government agencies, and professional organizations to raise awareness of the importance of field-based education in the geosciences particularly at two-year colleges. We welcome feedback and comments from Geo2YC members and other interested parties at large. The feedback and comment period will be open until July 1st, 2015. Please share this opportunity to provide feedback with fellow colleagues and the greater two-year college community. Thank you in advance for your constructive comments!

-Geo2YC Division Officers

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Field-based education should be an integral part of geoscience curriculum at two-year colleges

Introductory geoscience curriculum at two-year colleges must include robust field-based experiences/education to (1) promote persistence in college/geoscience (create and sustain a pipeline to 4YC geoscience programs), (2) promote the development of particular cognitive development of students and (3) promote key organizational, personal and interpersonal skills, and help develop a scientifically literate community that maintains an interest in Earth.

According to the American Geosciences Institute the number of U.S. college students graduating each year with a degree in the geosciences has stagnated, while industry and government job opportunities in this field have risen rapidly in recent years (Wilson 2014). As greater numbers matriculate through the two-year college system prior to pursuing a Bachelor's degree, industry and national government are now looking to community colleges to broaden the pool of future geoscience graduates. Field experiences are an essential venue for attracting and training our future geoscientists, therefore it is imperative that field experiences remain supported and embedded within the curriculum. Research shows that field experiences significantly increase interest in geology (Wilson, 2012), and are critical for developing and producing geology majors (LaDue & Pacheco, 2013). Limiting authentic fieldwork at the community college would severely impact the production of geology majors at universities.

Field experiences represent a positive and irreplaceable learning experience for all students. Research shows that they promote particular cognitive aspects, such as an appreciation of scale (e.g. micro to macro), intellectual application, an appreciation of complexity and uncertainty, and the ability to synthesize and evaluate information, and a deeper understanding of geologic concepts (Hawley, 1997; Tretinjak & Riggs, 2008). This is essential to building the foundation for geological study. They also build community and increase student persistence in college (Tinto, 1993), and improve student attitudes about their academic work, student confidence about working with others and coping with challenges, and their understanding of the significance to their work (Boyle et. al, 2007).

Field experiences also aid dramatically in the overall development of our globally literate citizen. The positive outcomes align with curriculum reform efforts such as the Next Generation Science Standards and Earth Science Literacy Principles that challenge educators to teach how science is done rather than stressing the memorization of science facts. They also promote key organizational, personal, and interpersonal skills, as well as opportunities to acquire a variety of procedural skills and work effectively in a team (Quinn, 2009; Moore, 2001; Thompson, 1982).

Field experiences are also shown to impact long-term memory due to the memorable nature of the fieldwork setting (Rickinson et al., 2004), which is noteworthy for the continued success of geoscience related initiatives in the general populace.

Field experiences lay the foundation for a scientifically literate citizen who can critically evaluate complex challenges facing modern society and better prepare a highly needed workforce population. As logistical and economic concerns limit authentic field instruction there are calls for dissolution of programs or replacement with digital or virtual environments. As a community dedicated to the advocacy of two-year college geoscience education, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers Two-Year College division maintains that the benefits far outweigh the concerns and that authentic field experiences are important, irreplaceable experiences at two-year institutions.

NAGT Geo2YC urges [name or names of constituencies] to implement the recommendations at [name or names of institutions; or level of government].

Draft language disseminated to members of the NAGT Geo2YC community May 2015.

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