A comparison of self-reported teaching practices related to development of students' quantitative, data analysis, problem-solving, and communication skills in introductory geoscience courses at two-year colleges and four-year colleges

Wednesday 4:30pm-5:45pm Beren Auditorium
Poster Session Part of Wednesday Poster Session


Kusali Gamage, Austin Community College
Heather Macdonald, College of William and Mary
Rory McFadden, Gustavus Adolphus College
Community colleges are a main entry point to post-secondary education for many students, particularly for minority students, first-generation college students, students from low-income families and older students. Even though community colleges were originally designed to provide access to post-secondary education followed by transfer to four-year institutions, only about 29% of all community college students successfully transfer to four-year institutions and from that ~16% eventually receive a bachelor's degree or higher. Transfer readiness has been identified as a critical factor for successful transfer. Given the importance of academic preparation in transfer students, this study focuses on teaching practices used by 2YC and 4YC faculty in introductory geoscience courses in four key skills development areas: quantitative, data analysis, problem solving, and communication. The data used in this study were collected from a national survey of geoscience faculty administered in 2012 and 2016. There is little variation in self-reported teaching practices used by 2YC and 4YC faculty in non- quantitative problem solving and communication skills categories. Approximately 85% of faculty asked students to work on a problem of national or global interest in their introductory courses. In contrast, only about 1/3 of faculty asked their students to work on a problem of interest to the local community. On average, 60% of all faculty who teach introductory courses asked students to write a formal paper or abstract but relatively few faculty asked students to formally present project results in a talk or poster. 2YC faculty are more likely to ask students to present their work in a talk or poster given small to medium sized courses at two- year institutions. The greatest variation in teaching practices between 2YCs and 4YCs was observed in the quantitative skills category (use algebraic equations, conduct statistical analyses, use skills learned in a calculus course). Even though most faculty asked students to use some quantitative skill at least once during the course, 33% of 2YC faculty reported that they did not have students use any quantitative skills in their introductory courses compared to 25% of 4YC faculty. Faculty who have students use quantitative skills are also more likely to have students conduct data analysis. The infrequency observed in the use of quantitative skills in introductory courses particularly at 2YCs needs greater focus as this delay in the development of quantitative skills can hinder students to transfer.