Geoscience in Two-year Colleges > Workshops and Events > The Role of Two-Year Colleges in Geoscience Education > Workshop Recommendations

Workshop Recommendations

Recommendations made by the participants at the 2010 workshop are given below. The list also gives some of the follow-up actions and outcomes that are directly linked to this workshop. Given the isolation identified by many of the participants, many of the recommendations would help build a community with opportunities to network, build skills for improved teaching and learning, and share and develop programs that lead to student success. An increase in strong 2YC-4YC partnerships would help build programs and opportunities to collaborate and to promote student success and would help elevate visibility and status of geoscience in two-year colleges. The eight major recommendations listed below are discussed in more detail below.

  1. Establish a formal organization for geoscience faculty in two-year colleges and work to build a community focused on 2YC issues.
  2. Gather more information about the current status of geoscience education at 2YC, including an emphasis on the role of 2YC in broadening participation in the geosciences, and develop a set of 'best practices' regarding geosciences programs in 2YC.
  3. Provide more early research experiences for 2YC students.
  4. Provide more career resources relevant to 2YC students.
  5. Promote and support involvement on 2YCs in K-8 and K-12 education.
  6. Establish a web portal for geoscience in 2YCs.
  7. Provide more opportunities for professional development for two-year college geoscience faculty.
  8. Promote strategic partnerships with professional organizations and societies and build 2YC/4YC partnerships and collaborations.
  9. Integrate community colleges into all of the Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence and provide opportunities for faculty and students from all areas of the US to increase their ocean literacy.

1. Establish a formal organization for geoscience faculty in two-year colleges and work to build a community focused on 2YC issues.

Develop a formal community/organizational structure as a way to exchange ideas, support 2YC activities, and build a community of those interested in 2YC issues. Workshop participants value attending professional geoscience meetings and some serve on regional and national geoscience committees as a way to maintain ties to the geoscience community. Others build connections with local universities, both attending talks by visiting speakers and leveraging their ability to send transfer students to four-year college geoscience departments.

A committee chaired by Bob Blodgett, Austin Community College, developed a formal organizational structure and explored the possibility of forming an organization within the National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT). The Geo2YC Division of NAGT was formally established in Fall 2011, a direct outcome of the workshop. The Division is an organization for those who have a professional interest in geoscience education at two-year colleges.

Professional organizations and societies can help build the community by supporting participation of 2YC at professional society meetings, by providing financial support in the form of travel and mini-grants, and by offering various community-building events.

2. Gather more information about the current status of geoscience education at 2YC, including an emphasis on the role of 2YC in broadening participation in the geosciences, and develop a set of 'best practices' regarding geosciences programs in 2YC.

Participants recommended developing a survey to collect more information about various aspects of 2YC programs, recognized the great variation in 2YCs and geoscience programs in 2YCs. With their diverse student populations, 2YCs have an important role to play in broadening participation in the geosciences. However, a more systematic collection of data, resources, and examples is needed (e.g., 2YC geoscience programs, faculty, and students; demographic data about students in geosciences courses at 2YCs; demographic and attitudinal data about workforce and transfer from 2YCs; and strategies for recruiting, retaining, and supporting students, addressing student preparedness (pre-2YC, 2YC, & transfer), and supporting pathways for student success. A collection of examples of 2YC programs that are successful (using a variety of measures) would be valuable and should be disseminated nationally.

Development of a set of 'best practices' regarding geoscience programs in 2YCs, similar to what physics has done with SPIN-UP 2YC, would be helpful to showcase the variety of ways different 2YCs address issues of successful strategies for recruiting, retaining, and supporting students. Such a document would also help lone faculty make the case at their institutions on specific issues, such as the importance of field experiences and strategies that promote earth science literacy. The Best Practices document could describe the most successful geoscience programs, and how and why they are successful. A shorter Guidelines document could summarize and quantify the characteristics of effective departments for a more general audience. These documents could establish standards of excellence for 2YC geoscience programs, give new faculty insights into the profession, help faculty develop new programs or improve their current programs, be shared with administrators, and attract people to teaching at 2YCs. One approach would be to carry out a pilot survey and use the results to develop a program that would include both a national survey and site visits (Branland et al., 2010).

Programs for recruitment, retention, and support for 2YC students will only be successful if these programs are tailored to address address the characteristics of 2YC students (including age, family and career obligations, geographic mobility). Below we outline issues and strategies identified as important for effective recruitment, retention, and support of students in 2YC geoscience programs and some approaches to support 2YC faculty in these efforts.

  • Support for student recruitment, retention, and learning in 2YCs through tutoring and peer mentoring, field work, and other strategies. Tutoring and peer mentoring is one approach to supporting students in geoscience courses in 2YCs. It provides benefits to the tutors, peer mentors, student co-inquirers (potential majors) as well as to the students in the courses, and also has the potential to help broaden participation. Field experiences can be valuable recruiting tools and influence career selection; these can also keep students who have taken the other geoscience courses that the department offers engaged in the geosciences community.
  • Support for interdisciplinary collaborations. Interdisciplinary collaborations are one strategy for reducing isolation of geoscience faculty and building a community; they can also provide rich experiences for students. Faculty interest groups, learning communities, reading groups, and interdisciplinary courses and curricula provide opportunities to interact with faculty from other disciplines.
  • Support for contingent faculty. Adjunct faculty positions are a permanent fixture of 2YCs and providing opportunities for full-time and adjunct faculty to work together reduces isolation and builds community, and can enhance student learning and career development. Examples for supporting adjunct faculty include mentoring of adjuncts, including adjuncts in discussions and decisions in the geoscience program, and providing support for external professional development.

3. Provide more early research experiences for 2YC students

Workshop participants recommended more opportunities to both establish and evaluate early research experiences (e.g., Early REU) programs, research collaborations with local 4YCs, and other early research experiences). While such early research experiences are valuable and may aid in recruitment and retention, some 2YC students do not possess sufficient math and science backgrounds to be competitive for traditional REU programs and some 2YC students are not able to participate in a traditional REU program structure due to family or work obligations. Participants wanted to have examples/case studies of 2YC involvement in early research experiences for students and more support for efforts that address needs of 2YC students. The Promoting Research Investigations in the Marine Environment (PRIME) program offered through COSEE Pacific Partnerships is one good model for providing summer research experiences for 2YC students.

Participants recommend that funding agencies and research institutions restructure the existing Research Experiences for Undergraduates program to include two different categories: REU and early REU (EREU), with the EREU category specifically designed for 2YC students. They also encourage two-year colleges and four-year colleges and universities to establish EREU sites and partnerships. Potential components/considerations include the amount of science and mathematics coursework required, schedule (daily schedule and duration), location, structure (examples: research, shadowing, early career exploration), and understanding of the diverse characteristics and needs of 2YC students.

4. Provide more career resources relevant to 2YC students

Workshop participants recommended that more resources on geoscience careers, relevant to 2YC students, be made available. Such resources would promote greater awareness of geoscience careers by 2YC students. For recruitment and retention, 2YC students should have a basic awareness about the role that geosciences play in global issues, what geoscientists do, and what geoscience and geoscience-related careers are available (including opportunities for positions for students who have completed their 2YC degree as well as transfer and other workforce options). For organizations providing career resources, we recommend asking 2YC faculty about the types of speakers, internship programs, and other career resources that would be appropriate for their student population. Other possible strategies include offering free trial 2YC student memberships and more intentional and structured interaction between scientists and 2YC students at local, regional, and national meetings. Fulltime or adjunct faculty with experiences gained outside of academia can bring their experience into the classroom. In addition, faculty at 2YCs can recruit speakers from organizations that already have speaker series, help establish guidelines for these organizations to help their speakers tailor talks to the community college audience, and bring 2YC students to speaker series at nearby 4YCs.

Participants also recommended establishing a central, web-based database, searchable by region, for 2YC faculty and students with information including internship and early research opportunities specifically for 2YC students; funding opportunities specifically for 2YC students and faculty; internship/research/shadowing/career exploration programs specifically for freshman/sophomore/2YC students; organizations with speaker series (e.g, IRIS, MARGINS); career information for students to share with their families and communities about the importance of geoscience careers, preferably available in multiple languages; businesses that employ geoscientists within an appropriate distance of the college.

5. Promote and support involvement on 2YC in K-8 and K-12 education

Two-year colleges can contribute to K-12 education through K-8 pre-service teacher education, in teacher certification programs, in working with in-service teachers, and in K-12 outreach and service learning activities. Participants recommended greater involvement in K-12 education in general and K-8 pre-service teacher preparation, specifically. Such involvement would increase geoscience literacy in the broader population. Participants recommended integrating best practices in teaching ALL courses that implicitly address the needs of pre-service teachers and working to ensure that earth science and/or geoscience should be an integral part of a quality K-8 pre-service program.

6. Establish a web portal for geoscience in two-year colleges

The workshop participants recommended a website focused on geoscience in two-year colleges that would be a resource for full- and part-time 2YC geoscience faculty. A "one-stop shopping" portal would build connections in the 2YC community (reducing the sense of isolation many experience), increase effectiveness as individuals and as a group, make searches for information relative to 2YCs more efficient, and serve as a form of outreach by broadening the profile of the community. Primary components of the portal could be communication tools (e.g., Web 2.0 features such as listservs, bulletin boards, member and organization directories, virtual networking space, social media links (e.g. Facebook), blogs); a repository of critical documents and data; and dissemination of information (e.g., links to useful materials on other websites, including professional development opportunities, grant announcements, pedagogical resources, government agency postings, opportunities for students (internships, REUs, career opportunities, etc.), relevant conference abstracts/papers, and so forth. Such a website, in association with the geo2yc email list would be a way to disseminate information and foster communication.

The Geoscience in Two-year Colleges website and the NAGT Geo2YC Division website provide complementary online resources regarding 2YC geoscience.

7. Provide more opportunities for professional development for two-year college geoscience faculty

Participants recommended that enhancement and expansion of opportunities for professional development (regarding teaching, program development, research, and grants) for full- and part-time faculty in 2YCs. Professional development opportunities are valuable and provide a means to meet and exchange strategies and discuss challenges, to disseminate information, and to continue the conversations and discussions begun at this workshop. Professional development opportunities also provide a way to learn and share new research in science and pedagogy. 2YCs are well suited for education research because they have a great laboratory (of students), but many 2YC faculty lack the background to conduct geoscience education research. Participants recommended that we increase awareness of existing professional opportunities for 2YC faculty, make professional development for 2YC faculty financially more accessible, increase regional professional development opportunities, institutionalize Geo2YC workshops with funding, and increase support for 2YC faculty in regards to grant writing, conducting human subject reviews (IRB), and developing research collaborations.

Following this recommendation, Supporting and Advancing Geoscience Education at Two-Year Colleges through Workshops and Web Resources (SAGE 2YC) addresses the need for professional development on issues specifically related to 2YCs as well as the specific issues of career and workforce development, transfer to four-year institutions, and the challenges and opportunities of teaching all students.

8. Promote strategic partnerships with professional organizations and societies and build 2YC/4YC partnerships and collaborations.

Participants found discussions with agency and society representatives valuable and suggest similar discussions in the future; representatives from agencies found the discussions useful in helping them better understand the needs of 2YC faculty and the 2YC enterprise in general. Professional societies and agencies can develop ways to publicize opportunities for visiting speakers, agency tours, REUs, and internships directly to 2YC faculty. Participants recommended increased support for writing proposals for external funds. One outcome of the workshop is the collaboration of this project with the American Geosciences Institute (AGI) to expand their database of faculty in two-year colleges.

Participants recommended a variety of strategies for building 2YC-4YC connections and collaborations that might provide opportunities for students, faculty, and programs. Participants made the following recommendations: promote strategies that promote student success in transferring to a 4YC institution or starting a career in the case of professional/technical students, including undergraduate research, teaching opportunities, leadership opportunities, professional skills, communication skills; identify barriers for specific groups; implement strategies to ease transition to four-year school (orientation, buddy program, mentoring); develop transfer agreements that will make the requirements for transfer more obvious; coordinate efforts to introduce and familiarize students with 4YC department and majors; and provide scholarship and funding opportunity information. Some challenges of 2YC-4YC partnerships include limited faculty time, limited numbers of 2YC students who would benefit, and differing degrees of support from the administration.

9. Integrate community colleges into all of the Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE) and provide opportunities for faculty and students from all areas of the US to increase their ocean literacy.

Participants endorsed a vision statement regarding ocean science education and 2YC that was submitted to COSEE. The statement outlines broad, high-priority objectives that the COSEE network could implement to achieve that vision. COSEE could support ocean science community college faculty through professional development programs that provide opportunities for both full-time and adjunct faculty. Faculty are interested in learning about resources that are currently available for instruction, working with ocean scientists in developing new classroom resources, partnering with ocean science researchers, participating in ocean science research, and gaining access to timely information on current ocean science topics. The regional nature of COSEE centers allows for the development of opportunities that connect ocean scientists with community college faculty. COSEE's resources are well suited to develop effective mechanisms for informing community college students of the pathways and diversity of ocean science career opportunities. COSEE could develop mechanisms for community college students to access information about internships and research opportunities with academia, agencies, and ocean workforce entities. COSEE could provide opportunities for community college students and faculty to work together with scientists, provide internship opportunities for community college students, and support pathways for community college students to enter the ocean science work force. The "Vision Paper for the COSEE Network" (Julson & Guertin, 2010) is available online.