Soil skills challenge: A problem-based field competition towards active learning for BSc. Geoscience students

Said Al-Ismaily*, Ahmed Al-Mayhai, Hamad Al-Busaidi, Anvar Kacimov, Daniel Blackburn, Ali Al-Maktoumi, Buthaina Al-Siyabi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


In this study, we present an interactive problem-based learning environment, namely, the “Soil Skills” contest for final year students majoring in Soil Sciences, a BSc program at Sultan Qaboos University, Oman. This five-day component of a compulsory field-course exemplifies an active learning approach, which has been promoted by higher educators based on its efficacy and outcomes on the student's learning processes. Our pedagogical strategy integrates the concepts and notions of: (i) Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL), (ii) scaffolding, (iii) teams competition and gaming, and (iv) Data–information–knowledge–wisdom. We evaluated outcome-based learning objectives of two cohorts (2018 and 2020) of Soil Sciences students during the contest via a field evaluation by juries, composed of Soil Science faculty, using an objective evaluation scheme. The evaluation of the contest was also done through a combination of an online questionnaire sent to registered students and peer-assessment among students conducted by the group leaders. The results of teaching evaluation of the course, in the semester when the contest was implemented, showed a higher rating score (3.93/4.0) than the college average (3.16/4.0) for all other courses (about 150/semester) and also than the average score (3.30/4.0) of the course in the previous year. The surveys of two cohorts showed that majority of the students indicated positive improvements in various transferable and interpersonal metacognitive skills (self-reported improvements in problem-solving abilities, thinking out of the box, observation, teamwork, capacity to perform under pressure, and communication). Further surveys of forthcoming cohorts are needed. The Soil Skills pedagogy approach is in line with the call towards enriching geoscience students with the skills and competencies necessary to address real-world problems of complex Earth systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114903
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Inquiry-based learning
  • Pedagogical practices
  • Scaffolding in course levels
  • Soil science
  • Teaching and learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Soil Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Soil skills challenge: A problem-based field competition towards active learning for BSc. Geoscience students'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this