Correlations Among Gender, Career Interests, Conservation Issues, And Curriculum Choice By Students In Wildlife And Fisheries Sciences At Texas A&M University From 2000 To 2008



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It is important to develop and assess student learning outcomes in order to determine whether academic department goals and standards are being reached. One aspect of this process involves alignment of learning outcomes with stakeholder criteria (expectations, beliefs) for assessment. The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences at Texas A&M University has not previously developed a program assessment of student learning outcomes. However, a survey has been administered to undergraduate students enrolled in a mandatory class, Conservation and Management (WFSC 201). Among other questions, the survey asked students to provide information about their curriculum choice, agreement with value statements about wildlife and conservation issues, career interests, graduate school plans, and importance of issues related to wildlife and fisheries management and conservation. To evaluate alignment of student choice of curriculum with expectations and beliefs related to their choice of career, I tested the student responses to curriculum choice for relationships to responses to survey questions about career interests, gender, and graduate school plans for surveys administered in 2000 and 2008. For these same surveys, I also tested responses to value statements for relationships to responses for importance of issues, in addition to career interests, gender, and graduate school plans. Similar percentages (24%) of the total variation in curriculum choice and in agreement with value statements were explained: Career interests explained 18% of the variation related to curriculum choice and 8% of variation related to value statements. Year and gender combined explained only 2% of the variation in either dependent variable. Responses to important issues explained 11% of the variation in responses to value statements. Choice of curriculum was most strongly related to career interests and graduate school plans. Students who chose the teaching curriculum option were interested in careers in public school education and planned on attending graduate school. Students who chose curriculum options in aquaculture and fish ecology and management were interested in careers in aquaculture and as government fisheries biologists and conservation officers and planned on attending graduate school. Students who chose the curriculum options in wildlife ecology and management and other options were interested in a broad range of careers and were undecided about graduate school. Although importance of issues and career interests explained 19% of the variation in student agreement with value statements, this relationship was not statistically significant. Issues of greatest importance to females were endangered species, habitat destruction, water availability, loss of biodiversity, and water pollution. Females in 2000 tended to choose careers in public school education and as government wildlife biologists, and in 2008 chose careers in nature center education and as urban wildlife biologists. Issues of greatest importance to males were landowner rights to resources, such as high fences to enclose wildlife, access to rivers, water availability, and hunting of wildlife. Males in 2000 tended to choose careers as conservation officers, and in 2008 chose careers in ranch management, private consulting, and as government fish biologists and urban wildlife biologists. This data provides the Wildlife and Fisheries Department at Texas A&M University with information about its students and how they responded to curriculum options, career interests, value statements, and important issues.