Geoscience in Two-year Colleges > Essays

Essays on Geoscience at Two-Year Colleges

Participants in several workshops have contributed essays touching on various challenges and opportunities of teaching at two-year colleges.


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Physical Geology Laboratory part of Essays
Jacquelyn Hams, Los Angeles Valley College
The most challenging aspect of teaching at my institution is that the students span the entire range of preparedness. Some can perform at the level of geoscience majors, and others do not have basic English language skills, and cannot perform simple mathematical calculations. This makes it particularly challenging to teach the introductory laboratory courses which require students to read carefully, follow instructions, and perform basic functions such as graph reading and simple mathematical calculations.

Promoting Earth science literacy in introductory courses part of Essays
Becca Walker, Mount San Antonio College
As a community college geoscience professor, the majority of my students are non-science majors, enroll in my courses to satisfy a general education transfer requirement, and do not intend on continuing in geoscience. Although I am thrilled when former students return for a second course, I teach with the assumption that for most of my students, this will be their last—and in many cases, only—exposure to Earth system science at an institution of higher education. As such, I believe that promoting Earth science literacy in all of my courses is essential and have thought deeply about how to infuse Earth science literacy into my curricula in ways that my students find intellectually engaging and useful. I have provided a few examples of strategies that I use—some are more time and labor-intensive than others—and forms of assessment.

The Whole Is Greater Than the Sum of the Parts part of Essays
Amanda Palmer Julson, Blinn College
When I started teaching at Blinn College in the summer of 1996, I was the second of two part-time Geology instructors. Our classroom/lab was located in a converted strip mall, we had an institutional collection of about two dozen rocks stored in baby-wipe tubs, and we approached each new semester with anxiety, hoping that our classes would make.

Addressing 2YC Challenges at Portland Community College part of Essays
Frank Granshaw, Portland Community College
Challenge #1 – Networking among community college geoscience educators Challenge #2 – Supporting new and part-time faculty Challenge #3 – Addressing the needs of the "average" student now taking our courses Challenge #4 – Encouraging students interested in careers in the geosciences

COSEE - Pacific Partnerships part of Essays
Jan Hodder, Oregon Institute of Marine Biology, University of Oregon, COSEE
I am the director of one of the National Science Foundation funded Centers for Ocean Science Education Excellence (COSEE) www.cossee.org. One of the goals of my center, COSEE – Pacific Partnerships, is to increase the opportunities for community college faculty and students to learn about the ocean.

Strategies for a Strong Geoscience Program at Red Rocks Community College part of Essays
Eleanor J. Camann, Red Rocks Community College
When considering the strategies our program has used to meet some of the challenges associated with teaching at a two-year college, our effective use of non-traditional courses and transfer agreements immediately came to mind. I have only been teaching at the community college level for a couple of years, so I was not the first to initiate these tactics here at Red Rocks Community College, but I have found them to be very effective and think they're practices worth continuing and sharing with others who work in a similar setting.

How CCSF broadens geoscience participation part of Essays
Katryn Wiese, City College of San Francisco
Community colleges are the location of choice for community education (post graduate), job certificates, and future graduates looking for the most affordable educational path. As such, we have the unique opportunity to become an integral part of a community and serve it at all levels. We are educators in a wide range of capacities – and our doors are open to all. We work with K-12 teachers and their classrooms; local science workshops; local news organizations; local parks; municipal services; politicians; and surrounding 4-year institutions to which our students transfer.

Collaboration through Coordinated Studies Courses part of Essays
Robert Filson, Green River Community College
Many two-year college (2yc) geoscientists constitute a single-person department within a larger division of other science, math, or engineering colleagues. For many years I was the only geoscientist at Green River Community College (GRCC). We now have two full-time geoscience instructors and three adjunct instructors, but I have found that teaching with colleagues from other departments has been very rewarding and interesting.

Getting Them To Love Rocks part of Essays
JoAnn Thissen, Nassau Community College
One of the best ways to promote earth science literacy is to immerse students in their learning, to put them in situations where they must learn, not just the concepts, but also the language of science and the process of science. I teach two standard lecture/lab courses and one field course. None of these courses have prerequisites but students have previous learning as part of their Earth Science Regents level courses taught in New York State junior or senior high schools. When they come into my classes they have already been exposed to the language of science but have no real idea what it really means. They just wanted to pass the Regents exam so they could graduate. Now they're challenged to use this previous learning to apply it and become active participants in their learning. Now they are challenged to see the world they live in.

Growing Your Program Out in the Field part of Essays
Suki Smaglik, Central Wyoming College
Its hard to believe that when I arrived at Central Wyoming College ten years ago that geology had not been taught here for almost twenty years, and then only occasionally. Here we sit in the place that many geology camps bring their students to learn their field skills. There were two courses on the books: Physical and Historical. The year prior, the University of Wyoming (our only public 4-year institution) removed the prerequisite for Historical and made them both entry-level courses. While we don't have to follow everything that UW does, it makes transfer easier for our students to transfer if we do follow much of it. As at most institutions, entry-level geoscience courses serve a mixed population of potential majors to general studies, and it is always challenging to make the information relevant to all. (But that is the topic of a different essay.)

Fostering Communication Among 2-year College Geoscience Faculty: Trials and Tribulations part of Essays
John Bartley, Muskegon Community College
Ten years ago, I was a participant in the first planning workshop for broadening participation of 2-year colleges in geoscience education. Since then, some changes have taken place to improve things for 2-year college geosciences, but many of the concerns and problems shared among the participants at that first conference are still with us—limited resources, professional isolation, the absence of a national organization devoted to 2YC geoscience education issues, etc.

Geoscience at Highline Community College part of Essays
Eric Baer, Highline Community College
The most successful action was offering many introductory classes. This allowed students to take multiple introductory level classes and raised enrollments throughout. Furthermore, by having students take multiple classes we usually have a few students in each class that have had a previous class and so are more advanced. These students raise the educational achievement of all by becoming informal leaders.

The Two Year College and Beyond part of Essays
Pamela Gore, Georgia Perimeter College
Georgia Perimeter College enrolls more freshmen by far than any single 4-year institution in the State. In Fall 2009, nearly 15,000 freshmen were enrolled at GPC, compared with only about 5000 at the University of Georgia and similar numbers (4000-5000) at several other colleges and universities in the State. While there are 33 Geology majors, fewer than 5 students graduate each year with a Geology degree. The other students transfer directly into 4-year institutions before graduation through our Transfer Admission Guarantee (TAG) Agreements, which guarantee acceptance at one of approximately 40 4-year institutions, when maintaining a particular GPA and amassing a certain number of credits. At one time, we were told by a local University that GPC transfer students performed better and graduated at higher rates than students who started at that university.

Repackaging the Geoscience Curriculum part of Essays
David Kobilka, Central Lakes College
I work at a small rural community college where I am the only full time geoscience faculty. When I arrived here, hired on as an adjunct, enrollment was down college wide and registration for Earth Science classes was abysmally low. Administration had a tenuous commitment to even having an Earth Science department – in semesters prior to my arrival there had been no Earth Science courses offered at all. My first semester department budget did not even cover photocopies. Thanks to the generosity of colleagues I patched together charity from other departments for things like test forms and chalk.

Challenges and Opportunities in Broadening Participation in Geosciences part of Essays
Ann C.H. Hadley, Manchester Community College
Manchester Community College is located just to the east of Connecticut's capitol city, Hartford. Our college's service area includes both urban and rural communities. We serve students who are from many different cultural backgrounds and who speak over fifty different languages. To promote student participation in geosciences and environmental sciences, we use several difference tools at the college.

Learning from Outside part of Essays
William Van Lopik, College of Menominee Nation
Teaching geoscience in a tribal college has its own challenges and mazes that must be circumvented. These difficulties often relate to the meshing of two different unique forms of teaching and learning. The predominant native student body has a different "way of knowing" than the non-native professor who has been steeped in the objective, predictable knowledge system of western science. These differences are best characterized by the difference between indigenous knowledge and the scientific method. I am not one to say that one is better than the other, only that they are two distinct perspectives. An integration of the two is required in order for students to appreciate and understand the geosciences. The symbiosis between these two ways of thinking is called "integrative science." The challenge for the instructor is to design and teach their class in such a matter that is receptive and interesting based upon the students' way of learning.

Recognizing Opportunities: Expanding Earth Science Literacy by Understanding the Role of Community Colleges in U.S. Education part of Essays
Wendi J. W. Williams, NorthWest Arkansas Community College / University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Two-year colleges provide a skilled graduate-level educated faculty focused upon teaching. Natural or physical sciences faculty have graduate training in their subject areas. Many 2-year colleges require at least a Master's degree for any faculty science division hire or require a minimum of 18 graduate units in the discipline (depending upon the State and/or institution). A growing number of faculty have earned Doctoral degrees (upwards of 10%, with the greatest number achieved by adjunct faculty; AACC, 2009). Numerous faculty are "shared" by 2-year and 4-year institutions, working combinations of part time and full time at both types of institutions simultaneously (e.g. this author). Community college faculty professional development emphasizes pedagogy and androgogy techniques for diverse populations. These faculty play an important role in the training of students in introductory laboratory science courses by offering smaller class sizes (generally 30 or less students per faculty), and providing more personalized "active learning" instruction. Pre-service teachers, particularly primary-levels, can receive suitable strategies in instruction modeled during content classes (Fathe and Kasabian, 2009). It is interesting to note that participants of the American Geophysical Union workshop on Earth Systems Science (AGU, 1996) grasped that most students begin their college training at 2-year institutions, however many of the articulation agreements for transfer to 4-year programs granting baccalaureate degrees are controlled by 4-year institutions. This has the effect of restricting community college faculty in the use of their collective expertise and ingenuity in delivering contemporary Earth system science curriculum (AGU, 1996).

Collaboration with Researchers to Enhance Community College Experience part of Essays
Allison Beauregard, Northwest Florida State College
Being at a small community college, with only three geoscience instructors and very limited resources, I find the following to be among my biggest challenges:

Geoscience at Southwestern Illinois College part of Essays
Joy Branlund, Southwestern Illinois College
A main goal of mine is to show students that everyone can do science, that science can and should be understood by all citizens, and that there are benefits to thinking scientifically. In short, I stress science literacy in my geoscience courses. The purpose of this essay is to address the importance of community colleges in geoscience education. The link between community colleges and science literacy is this: stressing science literacy at community colleges will positively change the way science is viewed an integrated in U.S. politics and society. This bold statement reflects the fact that many adults will take their only post-secondary physical science at a community college. We should not underestimate the roles of community colleges in creating educated and engaged citizens.

Geoscience at Hillsborough Community College part of Essays
James (Jim) Wysong, Hillsborough Community College - Brandon Campus
Hillsborough Community College, like many large metropolitan community colleges in close proximity to major universities, has a high ratio of Associate in Arts (A.A.) to Associate in Science (A.S.) degree seekers. At the particular campus where I teach, that ratio approaches 9:1. Not surprisingly, the majority of students enrolled in the geosciences courses that we offer1 are seeking to fulfill general education requirements for a generic liberal arts A.A. or for a non-science university parallel A.A., rather than taking those courses for a terminal geosciences related degree or a university parallel degree in a geoscience major. Our college does have an Environmental Science Technology A.S. degree; however, most of the geoscience related courses required for that program are restricted to students in the program, and thus constitute only a very small part of our total enrollment.

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