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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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Beginning a Geoscience Program at a Two-Year College
Brett Dooley, Patrick Henry Community College
I teach at Patrick Henry Community College, which resides in a fairly rural and economically depressed part of Virginia. Many of our students are first generation college students and are coming back to school for retraining after having lost a factory job. With the exception of earth science (GOL110), which is not a transferrable science course for general studies students and thus never had any significant enrollment, PHCC has only offered geology classes for four years. Having started the geology program at PHCC, there are three main areas upon which I am focusing to support geoscience students: introduction to the value of geoscience and access, transfer and career option, and training with workforce and transfer skills.

Preparing Our Workforce Initiative: Preparing Students at 2-Year Colleges for Geoscience Careers
Heather Houlton, American Geosciences Institute
Over the past year, I have developed a program called the "Preparing Our Workforce (POW) Initiative", which teaches students about the many different types of career opportunities that are available in the geosciences. I piloted the program by facilitating in depth and interactive discussions with geoscience students at 7 different institutions, including a 2-year college. The presentation emphasized the importance of integrating students' interests, within and outside of geoscience, and their transferable skills to their geoscience career goals, which led to an increased awareness of the diversity of careers in the geoscience workforce. Additionally, I presented pertinent information about geoscience workforce trends, such as enrollments, supply and demand data and salaries of geoscientists. Lastly, I discussed best practices for networking and how to land a job or internship in our field.

A brief consideration of the correlation of pre- and post-testing as an indicator of student success in geology classes
Joanna Scheffler, Mesa Community College
In the last two years my classes have been part of the GARNET (Geoscience Affective Research Network) project, with which some of the participants in this SAGE workshop are familiar. In this project, students were asked to fill out an MSLQ (Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire) at the beginning and toward the end of the semesters. In addition, the students took a pre-test and post-test of general concept geologic questions. I am by no means a statistician, but MSLQ surveys have not shown much movement between the first and second runs. I had hoped the general concepts pre/post tests would show big differences, particularly since many students missed half or more of the questions in the pre-test. With few exceptions scores did improve in post-tests, but not as much as I had hoped. This held true in the second year (2012-2013 academic year) of the study, even though I have been addressing some learning strategies directly in my classes. Primarily I have asked my students to reflect on what their goals are for the class and how they intend to achieve those, followed by later assessments of where they stand on those goals. I have discovered that even for this low stakes concepts assessment I have to resist "teaching to the test". I have also been working on making my lecture classes more inquiry-based and less lecture-based.

Student Response Devices and Online Homework to Support Geoscience Student Success in Traditional Lectures, Distance Learning and Online
Bill Richards, North Idaho College
At this institution, the majority of students enroll in a geoscience course to fulfill a laboratory science requirement for the Associates' degree and mostly in Physical Geology (approx. 140 per semester and 40 during the summer session) and Physical Geography (approx. 120 per semester and 30 during summer session). Many 2yc students are not prepared for the level of "active learning" necessary to be successful in content-heavy lecture courses such as Physical Geology and providing students opportunities to become more active in their own learning process is a major focus of my curriculum development. A major activity within my freshmen courses is the use of the interactive student response devices (specifically the Q6 model from Qwizdom).

Teaching Geoscience to Non-Science Majors: Using real-world examples and lecture worksheets
Marianne Caldwell, Hillsborough Community College
Marianne Caldwell, Hillsborough Community College Download this essay (Acrobat (PDF) 34kB Jun13 13) Teaching geology and earth science to my students can be a challenge, as typically only a few students are ...

Ongoing Involvement and Taking Ownership of your Education: Homework, Feedback, and Interactions
Steve May, Walla Walla Community College
As a full-time physical sciences instructor at Walla Walla Community College, a rural 2-year college, and an adjunct geology professor at Whitman College, a small liberal arts college, I work with two significantly different types of college students. I am often asked about the differences I observed between these two groups and the answer is a fairly simple one, and maybe not what people expect. Yes, the Whitman students probably have somewhat better entrance exam scores, but that is not what I believe to be the most significant difference to me it is the fact that most of the 2-year students do not feel any real ownership of their education, whereas the Whitman students expect a great deal of themselves, as well as their professors. The way these differences manifest themselves is that a professor at Whitman can expect the vast majority of their students to show up for each class having fully prepared themselves for the topics to be discussed and ready to ask informed questions during class; whereas the 2-year college students need some strong inducements to learn the value of being prepared and what it feels like to have some sense of control and involvement regarding their education.

Creating lab tracks to accommodate diverse student populations in introductory laboratory classes
Jacquelyn Hams, Los Angeles Valley College
This essay will focus on the efforts to improve student success in geology laboratory courses at Los Angeles Valley College, a diverse 2YC located in greater Los Angeles. The lab classes have traditionally used lab manuals and field trips as the primary methods of instruction.

Coyote in the classroom
Ethan Reese-Whiting, Illinois River Watershed Program
My instructional approach has evolved to focus on active and inquiry-based learning as a means of exploring concepts in the general geology classroom. This has grown out of my involvement with the Eight Shields model of the learning journey and art of mentoring as described in "Coyote's Guide to Connecting with Nature" by Jon Young, Ellen Haas, and Evan McGown. While I am still in the early stages of adapting this model to the traditional classroom setting, I believe its approach has value in the general geology classroom as a means of pulling at students' edges of understanding and inspiring their curiosity rather than pushing them toward specific goalposts via the traditional lecture model. The application of this approach also forces me to discern between the material that is "need to know" versus that which is "nice to know." This helps provide focus in the classroom and reduces the chances to overwhelm students with minutiae they can easily find in the textbook.

Geology: The Foundation of Everyday Life
Rob Rohrbaugh, El Paso Community College
Over the past five years I have been a geology instructor for college and high school students in the border town of El Paso, Texas. El Paso also consists of one of the largest military installations in the country. These demographic factors create a very diverse student population, both culturally and socio-economically. Coupled with the student demographic, El Paso also consists of some of the most ideal geological exposures in the country. My geologic study at the University of Texas El Paso provided immense local knowledge of the regional geologic setting, which has become my trademark as a field oriented instructor.

The American Geophysical Union and Two-Year Colleges
Bethany Adamec, American Geophysical Union
The American Geophysical Union is a not-for-profit society of Earth and space scientists with more than 62,000 members in 148 countries. Established in 1919 and headquartered in Washington, D.C., AGU advances the Earth and space sciences through its scholarly publications, meetings, and outreach programs.


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