Example Programs

The programs below are modified from actual traveling workshops at geoscience and environmental science departments. They are shown here to give departments and workshop leaders a starting place for conversations about what to include in their specific traveling workshop program. While every workshop includes some sessions focusing on the specific topics of interest to the department, there are also many optional possibilities: opportunities for the workshop leaders to meet with administrators or students, informal events such as meals or field trips, and more.


How does your program fit into the world and work your students will experience? Geoscientists are good at looking at the past to understand the present and predict the future Earth. We need to use those same skills to envision what the future will hold and how our departments and programs fit in that future. This activity will help foresee the kinds of knowledge and skills future graduates will need and how your department will contribute to filling this need. This core session will produce a set of touchstone ideas that will guide later sessions.

Session Goals

  • Build a department team
  • Develop a coherent articulated program where success depends on everyone's engagement
  • Think beyond the problems at hand


To prepare for the workshop, we ask all participants to reflect on the current state of the department, and to become familiar with recent initiatives related to GEO/STEM education:

  • Review your Institutional Mission Statement and Departmental Role and Scope Documents
  • Know Your Students; where do they come from, what barriers might they face, what are their aspirations?
  • Please complete the Ideal Student Exercise; we'll use your input from this activity as the basis for our Program Design Activity. Write a letter of reference for an ideal student who has just graduated from your program.
  • Introduction to the Characteristics of Strong Departments; Please review this website and reflect on your own department–what characteristics are alive and well in your department, what would you like to work on? We'll use your self-reflections as the basis for our SWOT Analysis activity.
  • Building Strong Geoscience Departments: The Future of Geoscience; Your responses to these resources will help inform our session on goal setting. Browse this site to check out future opportunities for your department.
  • The Future of Undergraduate Geoscience Education Summary Report and the related Geoscience Employers Workshop report provide additional context for our workshop.

Day 1

Session I: Envisioning Your Program

8:00-8:15 Introductions, Background of NAGT Traveling Workshop Program, Goals of Workshop, and Thanks to our Sponsors (NSF)

8:15- 9:45 AM - Envisioning Change: Consider the changing nature of the Geosciences, the geoscience workforce, your students, and the department role in the institution. Introduction to the Characteristics of Strong Departments with a discussion of what the department thinks it does well. Consider also Connect to the Future of Geoscience

9:45-10:00 BREAK

10:00-11:00 AM - Planning for Change:The facilitators will lead the group through a Strengths-Weaknesses-Opportunities-Threats (SWOT) analysis in the context of current challenges and the future envisioned in the previous activity.

11:00 AM-12:00 PM - Strategic Foci for Action Planning: A primary outcome of the workshop will be an action plan for the program developed by the group through the workshop activities. The first section of this plan presents the strategic foci for the plan. Reflect on the opening envisioning activities as well as the reasons for requesting this workshop, then convert the list of key ideas into a final list of strategic foci for departmental action and record in the first section of the Action Plan.

Session II: Program Design

1:00 -2:30 PM - Identifying Skills, Experiences, Content, and Values: What do you want your students to be able to do? Participants will develop a list of goals for their students, first individually and then collectively. The session will produce a set of measurable and assessable program-level learning outcomes.

  • Participants spend 5-10 minutes individually writing out goals for their students on individual post-it notes. What should they be able to do when they graduate? Then everyone puts their notes onto a board and the group organizes the whole set into clumps. Synthesizing what these clumps have in common point the way to "goal-like objects" (GLOs).
  • Discuss the suite of GLOs in the context of the Envisioning and SWOT activities from the Opening Session.
    • Do they reflect the departments context and strategic foci?
    • Do they collectively serve the range of students that you serve today and into the future?
    • Are you happy with these GLOs or is additional work or discussion needed?
  • Return to the Action Plan and record any future actions that are needed.

2:30-3:30 PM - Developing a Program Matrix: How do students meet the program goals? Building a program matrix can help the department visualize where students are or could be building their knowledge, skills, and values.

  • Visit Matrix Approaches to Program and Curriculum Design
  • Activity: Starting with the Blank Matrix Template (Excel 51kB Sep4 14), the new list of GLOs, and the list of curricular and co-curricular activities generated as homework, participants construct the X and Y axes of their Program Matrix. Then they pick at least one of their GLOs and complete, at minimum, one row of the Matrix, isolating where and to what degree different program elements present students with the opportunity to gain mastery as well as where and how their progress is assessed. Upload file to the Session Work Page.
  • Discussion: Record notes on the Session Work Page
    • How does the program use both curricular and co-curricular opportunities to address the goal?
    • What type of things make sense on the x axis (e.g. electives?)
    • What is the right granularity and number of GLOs?
    • How do we use the Matrix approach to reach the goals that we've set for the program?

3:30-3:45 PM Break

3:45-4:30 PM - Using the Matrix: The program matrix is a powerful tool for asking questions about where students are getting the important experiences we want for them as well as for hypothesis testing when student outcomes are not what we anticipate. This process is analogous to what scientists do all the time - generate a hypothesis, test it, and then using that information to feed back into the next round of hypothesis generation.

  • Small Group Work: In small groups, use the matrix that you have developed so far to consider for one GLO -
    • Reflecting on the variety of ways in which students move through the program, do the offerings give appropriate scaffolding to the development of knowledge, skills and values that support mastery of the goal?
    • What mentoring, advising or other supports are needed to ensure that all students can access the learning opportunities?
    • How would you know if the program was succeeding in supporting students to meet the GLO?
    • What evidence do you currently have that students are meeting all or some of this goal?
    • Do you have hypotheses as to why some or all students fail to meet the GLO?
    • What would you recommend the department do to strengthen the program in this area? This could include
      • revising or sharpening the GLO
      • changing the program
      • changing the support structure
      • Keep in mind that you would like to maximize work, do things that can be accomplished, minimize work, and promote significant synergistic effects
    • Report and Discussion: Return to the whole group and present 1 strategic recommendation per group. Discuss lessons learned through this process. Return to the action plan and record any needed actions that follow from this exercise.

4:30-5:30 PM - Assessment and Closing the Loop: Making the leap from a "goal-like-object" to an assessable program outcome.

  • Discussion: Open a discussion of program assessment and the needs of the program -- both internal needs for formative feedback and institutional needs for accreditation or reporting.
  • Activity:
  • Develop an example of a program level assessment that will help your department understand and improve its ability to address a strategic priority.
  • Use the matrix to identify the assessment points for that goal, using it to find mismatches between outcomes and that goal.
  • discuss appropriate assessment ideas and introduce resources on assessment
  • develop an appropriate assessment
  • discuss potential results from the assessment and what actions they would prompt

Reflect on discussion: What further action is needed regarding assessment, evaluation and closing the loop to meet your strategic priorities. Record action items in the action plan.

Evening Activity:
Reflect on the program design session as a whole. What have you learned about the process? about your program? Are there additional ideas that need to be recorded? Actions for the action plan?

Day 2

Session III: Action Planning and Departmental Management

8:00-8:15 AM - Review of Progress/Charge of the Day
What questions, issues, concerns emerged from yesterday's sessions? What are the prioritized goals for the department? How will these affect your development of an action plan? Identify 3-5 high priority action items to be developed into an action plan in the next session.

8:15-10:00 AM - Complete your Departmental Action Plan: Work in small groups to address the highest priority goals; record your recommendations and plans on the workspace.

10:00-10:15 AM - Break

10:15-11:00 AM - Walk through one or two action items in the action plan.

11:00-11:30 AM - Assessing your progress and outcomes; Reflect on process and its outcomes: What lessons have you learned for working as a departmental team?

11:30 AM-12:00 PM - Vision to Action: Challenges to Progress: How will the department implement and update the action plan? What needs to be done? By whom? On what timeline? What resources are needed? How will success be measured? How to self-monitor and motivate? How will the Action Plan be modifed as actions unfold or situations change? Implementation and Maintenance of your plan; what departmental structures will be put in place to ensure success? How will you maintain enthusiasm and momentum? How will you carve out time for action plan priorities? Commitment!

12:00-1:00 PM -Lunch

1:00-4:30 PM - Choose from one of the Elective Sessions:

  • Increasing the Diversity of Your Majors
  • Preparing Students for Careers from Day One
  • Embedding Sustainability in Your Program
  • Building a Thriving and Valued Department or Program
  • Pedagogies of Engagement
  • Course Design
  • Program Assessment

OR: Continue with Development of your Action Plans and Department Matrix

4:30 - 5:00 PM - Workshop Wrap Up and Workshop Evaluation

Other resources available to support your efforts