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Support the Whole Student

What does it mean to
Support the Whole Student? »

Build a Sense of Community

Research shows that students who feel they 'belong' have a higher degree of intrinsic motivation and academic confidence ([Freeman, Anderman and Jensen, 2007] [Anderman and Leake, 2005] ). Establishing this sense of community in a class or in a department is one of the most important recommendations coming out of the 2011 report from the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine - Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and Technology Talent at the Crossroads.

"Undergraduate and graduate STEM education programs should incorporate social inclusion strategies that include peer-to-peer support, study groups, program activities fostering social integration, and tutoring and mentoring programs."
- NAS et al. (2011) p. 184

Fig. 1 from Walton and Cohen (2011). The chart shows the raw GPA of students over time differentiated by race and experimental group. The effects of telling freshmen that it's normal to have trouble adjusting to college life and work are clear in the GPA data throughout their college career. Details
Two particularly insidious issues that can make minority students feel like they don't belong in STEM classrooms are Stereotype Threat and Solo Status. When they are activated, these challenges increase the stress level on minority students and can contribute to lower levels of performance. Stereotype Threat involves an unconscious reaction by students to a known negative stereotype about the group that they belong to. Fear of confirming the stereotype or trying to disprove the stereotype can cause students to do more poorly on assignments. Solo Status is associated with being the only representative of particular minority in a group. This can lead to stress from being perceived as representing their entire subset. There are good teaching strategies that can minimize the negative impacts of both of these threats: positive self-affirmations before tests, exposure to role models who they can identify with, framing their difficulties as something that everyone goes through.

Stereotype Threat and Solo Status »
The SAGE 2YC program has developed a resource to help faculty recognize the negative effects of these two related issues and how to mitigate their impacts on students' success.

Develop Student Motivation to Succeed

There is much that educators can do to increase students motivation to succeed on an assignment, in their course, in a degree program, and in the profession. Particular strategies that have been shown to be effective include:

Affective Domain: Motivating Students »
The On the Cutting Edge program developed an extensive resource on motivating students as a part of its module on the Affective Domain in the Classroom.

Integrate Professional Preparation into your Program »
The Building Strong Geoscience Departments project showcases strategies for mentoring students as they imagine and then prepare for a career path.

Provide Academic Support

Many students struggle in STEM disciplines because of gaps in their academic preparation including those from underrepresented minorities. Without assistance these deficits can be insurmountable. Institutions of higher education need to concern themselves not only with supporting the students that are already on their campuses, but also in strengthening the pipeline that brings students into STEM disciplines.

Targeted outreach and recruitment activities can help institutions cultivate underrepresented minority students who are interested in science and math and might aspire to careers in these areas. Examples of the kinds of activities involved would be summer camps or programs in science, math and engineering for high school students; active engagement of faculty and graduate students in local K-12 schools to help spark students' interest and keep them interested; or bridge programs who help high school students adjust to the college experience.

The Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation report also suggests ways that institutions can better support the students they already have.

"Institutions should develop bridging programs to enable students to matriculate along the STEM education curriculum. These programs include academic preparation, guidance from mentors on mastering the transition, the development of connections between programs, and financial support as necessary. Key transition points at which bridging can help include the transition from community colleges to four-year institutions, from undergraduate to graduate programs, and from master's to doctoral programs." - NAS, NAE, IM (2011) p.183-184

Beyond the Classroom »
A great deal of education happens outside of formal coursework, through mentoring, advising, internships, student research experiences, and many other activities. These resources from Building Strong Geoscience Departments can help faculty and students make the most of these opportunities.

Engage Students in Research

Research experiences provide a wide array of benefits for students including:

In addition, there are benefits for faculty and institutions when undergraduates are engaged in the act of hands-on science.

Undergraduate Research as Teaching Practice »
In collaboration with the Council on Undergraduate Research, On the Cutting Edge has developed extensive modules that aggregate community knowledge, experience, and resources that make the case for research as a valuable method of teaching in the geosciences.