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Essays

These essays were submitted by the workshop participants describing what they are currently doing to support geoscience student success in two-year colleges. You can download all the essays (Acrobat (PDF) 2.1MB Jul5 13) as a single PDF file.


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Zooming Out A Dean's Perspective on Geoscience Student Success
David Douglass, Pasadena City College
Seven years ago I transitioned to a new role as Dean of the Natural Sciences Division after 20 years of teaching in a fourperson Geology department. About 3 years into this new gig I read the paper "How Geoscientists Think and Learn"(Kastens et. al, EOS Trans. AGU, 90(31), 265) which caused me to reflect on why I was actually enjoying what I do and was having some success at it. Qualities of geoscientists such as having a broad perspective of time, understanding and appreciating the workings of complex dynamic systems, a sense of space, the adaptability and flexibility that comes from field work, and the sense of being part of a community of practice all have served me well in this new role. Currently I have the privilege of working with about 50 full-time faculty, 75 adjunct faculty, 10 classified personnel and over 6,000 students each term in a variety of disciplines from Biotechnology and Kinesiology to Geology and Physics.

Geoscience Projects That Bring the Community into the Classroom
Michael Phillips, Illinois Valley Community College
I began my professional career working full-time as an environmental geologist outside of academia. I began teaching evening classes at a community college because I wanted to show students that geology was not just as an interesting look into how the earth operates but how the study of the earth directly impacts their lives. To that end, I have used my consulting experiences to shape my assignments, my instruction, and my community outreach.

Accepting the Challenge
JoAnn Thissen, Nassau Community College Download this essay (Acrobat (PDF) 13kB Jun14 13) Because our department does not offer any type of program in the geosciences it's up to each faculty member to ...

Engagement Is My Key to Student Success
Christine Bradford, Lone Star College System, The
Like many two-year colleges, my students form a diverse population. I have students from just out of high school to those nearer to retirement. Approximately a third of my students are the first generation in their family to attend college. A slim majority of my students are white, many are Latinos, a few are of Asian or African descent. The majority of my students work at least part-time; however, some work full-time. Many are parents. As a result, their educational experience is often quite challenging to them; and therefore, I must give them the greatest possible opportunity to learn in the classroom and to have a diverse approach to teaching each class.

How can we broaden participation in the geosciences?
Kaatje Kraft, Mesa Community College
Broadening participation in the geosciences is both an issue of equity and practicality. Current job projections indicate that more than 90% of all STEM jobs will require at least some college within the next decade (Carnevale et al., 2010). By 2050, the current underrepresented population (Hispanic, African-American, Asian and mix of 2 or more races) will comprise nearly half of the population (Day, 1996), as a result, the current majority White population will no longer be the dominant contributors to the job market. If Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) jobs currently held by the majority are not replaced and filled by individuals in the growing minority groups, the nation faces a possible crisis. In addition, those who obtain a college degree are more likely to be flexible as the job market shifts and changes with technological advances (Carnevale et al., 2010). Supporting students in the general education science classes to be successful becomes a critical step toward obtaining a college degree, particularly those who move into STEM fields.

Supporting Geoscience Student Success
Anita Ho, Flathead Valley Community College
While I look forward to the workshop and learning about additional strategies and resources for effectively teaching the range of students I see, here are a few approaches I use to support student success.

Is Workforce Training The Critical Link To Get Students Engaged?
Peter Berquist, Thomas Nelson Community College
Teaching geology at a moderately-sized community college in southeast Virginia has taught me that most students coming into my classes 1) are there because they need to satisfy their lab-science/general education requirements, 2) perceive geology to be either "easier" or "more interesting" than physics, chemistry, or biology, and 3) really have no clue what geology is about. As the ever-optimistic instructor, I've forged ahead with my classes expecting that enthusiasm, dynamic and interactive lectures and labs, and attempting to use details to construct "the big-picture" would lead to the new generation of geoscientists. Increasingly, I've learned that my students want to see connections to "the real world" and that they have little to no concept of what geoscientists "do". As I've started incorporating more real-world examples into my classes, I have heard more and more to the effect of "yeah it's interesting, but what am I going to do with geology?". Apparently a meaningful barrier still exists for my students studying the geosciences in more detail, and it seems that stronger connections to the workforce could help elucidate what geologists actually "do", providing my students with more relevant examples of geology and that critical link to what they could do after leaving my class.

Tracking the Pathways of Students During Their Transition to the Early Career Workforce
Carolyn Wilson, American Geological Institute
The Workforce Program at the American Geosciences Institute has developed the National Geoscience Student Exit Survey in order to determine the relevant experiences in undergraduate and graduate school, as well as the immediate career plans of students finishing their bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degrees in the geosciences. Specifically, the survey addresses the students' education background, decision points for obtaining a geoscience degree, their geoscience co-curricular experiences, and their future plans for either entering graduate school or entering the workforce immediately after graduation. This work will begin to highlight the sets of experiences and expertise that the typical student graduating with a geoscience degree gained, as well as the industries that are effective at recruiting and the industries where students want to gain employment. Over time there may be some regional differences in these areas, along with differences based on the students' areas of focus for their degree. AGI's National Geoscience Student Exit Survey has been through a two-year piloting phase, and it was recently made available to any undergraduate or graduate department in the United States for spring 2013 graduates.

Building Success Skills into an Oceanography Curriculum
Lynsey LeMay, Thomas Nelson Community College
Student success and developing those necessary skills in students extends beyond the geosciences and while I use geoscience topics, I work to address and develop cross-curricular success skills throughout assignments all semester. This is true in all classes that I teach, but I will describe how this has been built into the introduction to oceanography classes at Thomas Nelson Community College.

Promoting Student Success using Universal Design to Decrease Barriers in Higher Education
Wendi Williams, Northwest Arkansas Community College
I began teaching as a graduate student, and have since continued to grow in my understanding of content as well as educational design and delivery as faculty contributing to both 2-year and 4-year public institutions. Through the years I have become increasingly aware of the many kinds of diversity in my students: learning preferences, amount of college preparation, first generation college-bound, ages represented by concurrent enrollment as high school students through retirees, persons with disabilities, English language learners, and military active duty and/or veteran status. Early in my association with UA-Little Rock, Earth Science faculty joined a pilot program with the Disability Resource Center. "Project PACE" was funded by the U.S. Dept. of Ed and UALR to teach faculty to use Universal Design techniques in order to reduce barriers for the majority of students while increasing access to higher education. NCES (2013) indicates that students with some college courses or who achieve degrees become members of the workforce at higher rates. If redesigning our courses lower barriers, then our 2YC population benefits even more in the long term.

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