Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Science Education

First Advisor

Dr. Heather Petcovic

Second Advisor

Dr. Matt Reeves

Third Advisor

Dr. Megan Kowalske


Teamwork skills, workforce skills, geoscience education, geoscience teamwork observation, case study, fieldwork skills development


Geoscience employers have increasingly called for student competency in three sets of skills – technical, field and soft skills. One major soft skill identified by employers is teamwork, which is critical in laboratory and field-based activities. At the same time, educators seek to inculcate in students a stronger focus on the development of teamwork skills as they are useful for knowledge sharing and problem solving. This interconnected value of teamwork in both the workforce and academia means students’ preparation should include learning teamwork in the geoscience. However, before educators can design strategies that help students learn critical teamwork skills, we need to identify what these specific skills are, and how they are enacted in academic and professional employment settings.

This research was conducted as a series of studies that explored teamwork from perspective of employers and students through the lenses of input-process-output taxonomy of teamwork model by Marks et al. (2001). In study one, the analysis of focus group discussion (N=3) attended by 15 environmental and hydrogeology employers suggested that competency related to team mission analysis, goal specification and planning are the transition skills that these geoscience employers desire. Action skills identified included metacognition, peer-mentoring/teaching, information synthesis and coordination. Employers also identified key interpersonal skills related to emotional intelligence, communication, organization and time management. A fourth category of teamwork skills that included trust, integrity and humility (teamwork ethics) emerged from data analysis. Results were consistent with prior research and theoretical perspectives, indicating a need for a focused teamwork development approach that teaches students these skills.

Research for studies two and three took place in a hydrogeology field course in a Midwestern university in the United States. In study two, the Geoscience Teamwork Observation (GTO) protocol was developed and validated as a measure of teamwork during fieldwork. The GTO captures the frequency of nine teamwork skills as observed by the user in real time, including: team mission analysis, goal specification, planning, peer-mentoring/teaching, information synthesis, coordination, communication, organization management and leadership. The GTO was developed using observations of two student teams (n= 5 members each) over two weeks of the field course and validated using focus group discussions. The GTO provides a unique framework for identifying teamwork skills as they develop and allows a single observer to simultaneously assess multiple teamwork skills and behaviors.

Study three utilized the GTO instrument to describe how geoscience students developed teamwork skills during the hydrogeology field course using an embedded, single-case study design. GTO data were triangulated against focus group discussions held after each week of team observations. Key emerging teamwork skills demonstrated by students included communication, leadership, peer-mentoring and teaching, and coordination. Skills related to goal identification, information synthesis and organizational management were least often used by student teams.Participants described the positive role of these skills in hydrogeology fieldwork. This paper provides first-time information on students’ teamwork skills development in the geosciences.

Together, these three studies identified specific teamwork skills essential to the domain of geosciences, provided a novel approach for observing teamwork skills, and described the development of key skills in the context of a hydrogeology field course.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access