Essays on Geoscience at Two-Year Colleges

Participants in several workshops have contributed essays touching on various challenges and opportunities of teaching at two-year colleges.


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In-Class Group Exercises in Introductory Geology part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Fred Marton, Bergen Community College
One of the key challenges that I face in my introductory geology class is trying to show students who are not necessarily interested in science (and who sometimes do not have a good background in science and math) that the basic concepts we are trying to learn about are not overly complicated or specialized. To address this, I have used in-class group exercises and worksheets to introduce many topics. I want the students to use these exercises as a way of teaching themselves and therefore they are not asked to answer questions on topics that we have already spent time on (unless they have actually done the assigned reading). Instead, I present simplified scenarios or analogies that they can figure out by themselves and then I go on to explain and we explore how they are analogous to the topic of interest.

Local Rock Outcrop Project in Physical Geology & Historical Geology part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Susan Conrad, Dutchess Community College
One way I get Physical Geology & Historical Geology students in my mid-Hudson Valley community college to apply new concepts is by giving them the option of studying a local rock outcrop for their final project. The process is really a mini-independent study as students apply what they learn in class about minerals, rocks, maps, geologic processes, and plate tectonics to "their" outcrop. I visit many of the students at their outcrops. Students can also share their own videos and photos of their site visits with me. The geology of most of the outcrops has not been recently described or interpreted in the geologic literature, or even in local hiking guidebooks, in any meaningful way, so students really must make their own observations and interpret them in order to unravel the geologic history of their outcrop.

Crafting an In-house Lab Manual for Community College Geology Students part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Rebecca Kavage Adams, Frederick Community College
I am creating an in-house lab manual for historical geology at Frederick Community College (FCC). The manual needs to be tailored to non-geology and non-science majors, be affordable, and capitalize on the samples and equipment available at FCC. At this point we are still using a published lab manual that costs $125 and is a poor fit for our students and available supplies.

Back to basics using scientific reasoning part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Mariela Bao, Portland State University
Any teaching techniques I have tried so far all revolve around the same goal: teaching my students the process of science, from the scientific method to using communication skills to explain their findings. Many of my students come to my course with a fear of science; most of them truly believe that they are not good in sciences. So, in this short essay I will explain two of my most influential activities that so far, have changed the dynamic of my courses. Instead of pushing the science, I prefer to explain the discovery process before I tackle any geoscience topic. Two activities are used: (1) What is it? (2) Describe and Sketch.

Supporting Student Success in Geosciences at 2YCs through Field Based Learning part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Ben Wolfe, University of Kansas Main Campus
Ben Wolfe, Metropolitan Community College Download this essay (Acrobat (PDF) 42kB Jun13 13) The overwhelming majority of students at my institution take geoscience courses (e.g. physical geology or physical ...

Supporting Geoscience Education at the University of Wisconsin-Richland part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Norlene Emerson, University of Wisconsin-Platteville
As I reflect on the goals that I have to support student success in geoscience courses, my thoughts first turn toward strategies I use to connect with each student as an individual learner. Since our students each have different skills, prior knowledge, capabilities, and reasons for being in school, I seek ways to provide content in visual, tactile, and audio means so that each student can connect to the material in the form that best suits their learning styles in order to optimize their learning. While content is important, the process of learning is just as important in an educational experience. Today's students are bombarded with information through social media, television, and print media often with sensationalized information concerning the Earth and the environment. Students need to develop their skills to assess critically what they hear and read especially concerning world issues such as mineral and energy resources, climate change, or mitigating natural disasters.

Supporting Student Success part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
David Voorhees, Waubonsee Community College
The reason I became a geology instructor is that I want to instill the passion I have for the earth in my students. I want to be able to give to my students some of the understanding of how the earth works, because they are to become the stewards of this planet long after I am gone. I feel that I am not able to bring this passion and understanding to many of my students, and I continually try to engage all of my students, just as the geosciences engage all of them in their everyday lives. Most all effective instructors have a 'bag of tricks' through which they engage their students that evolves, as it should, as we get different populations of students in our classrooms. As most of my General Education, Survey of Earth Science students are millennials, engaging them is one of my biggest challenges as a geoscience educator. I have developed several ways that I think, bring to my students the nature of science, scientific inquiry, and along the way, make the content relevant to their lives. They fall into two groups: place-basedintegration and mentoring.

Beginning a Geoscience Program at a Two-Year College part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
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.

Accepting the Challenge part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
JoAnn Thissen
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 part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Kristie Bradford, The Lone Star College System
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? part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Kaatje van der Hoeven Kraft, Whatcom 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 part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
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? part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Pete 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 part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Carolyn Wilson, American Geosciences 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.

Preparing Our Workforce Initiative: Preparing Students at 2-Year Colleges for Geoscience Careers part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Heather Houlton, Colorado School of Mines
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 part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
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 part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
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 part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
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 part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
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 part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
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.