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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Geoscience is by its nature interdisciplinary part of Integrate:Workshops and Webinars:Systems, Society, Sustainability and the Geosciences:Essays
David Kobilka, Central Lakes College-Brainerd
David Kobilka, Earth Science, Central Lakes College-Brainerd Geoscience classes, especially those with an environmental component, are by nature interdisciplinary. For example, introductory Oceanography involves ...

Promoting Student Success using Universal Design to Decrease Barriers in Higher Education part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Wendi J. W. Williams, South Texas 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.

Using On Course Principles to Support Student Success part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Al Trujillo, Palomar College
Palomar College faculty have recently received four-day On Course Workshop training on incorporating On Course strategies in their classrooms. On Course is a series of learning strategies for empowering students to become active, responsible learners. There is abundant data that demonstrates how On Course active learning strategies have increased student retention and success. Dr. Skip Downing details On Course strategies in his textbook, On Course: Strategies for Creating Success in College and in Life (Cengage Learning), which is used in college success courses.

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 ...

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 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.

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.

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.

Activities That Support Student Success in Traditional and Online Introductory Geoscience Courses at Wake Tech part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Gretchen Miller, Wake Technical Community College
I teach two introductory geoscience courses at Wake Tech, GEL 120: Physical Geology and GEL 230: Environmental Geology. I teach both courses in traditional, seated environments as well as online. All of our introductory geoscience courses (including the online sections) require both lecture and laboratory sessions and are 4 credit hour courses.

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.

Steps towards Creating an Engaging Earth Science Curriculum part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Eriks Puris, Portland Community College
When I teach I strive to "put the phenomena first" and to "put observations before explanations" I do this not because I want to, but because I have found it to work. Initially in my teaching I stressed the understanding and appreciation of the basic physical and chemical processes which underlie the workings of the Earth, unfortunately this approach did not get me far with community college students. Eventually by trial and error I found it important to describe what I was explaining before explaining it. In retrospect this is less than surprising, but at the time it was an important realization to me! I have found students to be more likely to 'bite' and engage in learning if I begin with specific examples which are accessible and relevant to the students.

Geoscience Projects That Bring the Community into the Classroom part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
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.

Training the Future Geoscience Workforce at the 2YC part of Integrate:Workshops and Webinars:Geoscience and the 21st Century Workforce:Essays
Shelley Jaye, Northern Virginia Community College
Shelley Jaye, Northern Virginia Community College The US Geological Survey (USGS) headquartered in Reston, VA, approached Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) in September, 2011 with a proposal to partner in ...

The AGU, its Fall Meeting, and a niche for two-year colleges part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Preparing Students in Two-year Colleges for Careers:Essays
Pranoti Asher, American Geophysical Union
The American Geophysical Union is a not-for-profit society of Earth and space scientists with more than 61,000 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.

Sustainability in an Oceanography Course part of Integrate:Workshops and Webinars:Systems, Society, Sustainability and the Geosciences:Essays
Katryn Wiese, City College of San Francisco
Katryn Wiese, Earth Sciences, City College of San Francisco Currently the primary classes in which I teach about Sustainability are Oceanography, Environmental Geology, and Physical Geology. Oceanography is my ...

InTeGrate Liaison and SAGE2YC Advisory Board Member from Pasadena City College part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Preparing Students in Two-year Colleges for Careers:Essays
Elizabeth Nagy, Pasadena City College
In addition to being an advisory board member for SAGE2YC, I am a co-PI on the NSF-funded, five-year InTeGrate project that aims to improve geoscience literacy and build a workforce that can make use of geoscience to solve societal issues. My role is to oversee the involvement of 2-year colleges (2YCs) and to be certain that issues unique to 2YCs are identified and considered during the program development, testing, and dissemination. As such I am a liaison between the InTeGrate and SAGE2YC groups, and am very excited to be involved in both programs.

Big Changes and New Directions for a Small Program part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Preparing Students in Two-year Colleges for Careers:Essays
Christine Witkowski, Murray State University
Middlesex Community College is one of the smallest of the twelve community colleges in Connecticut, with about 3000 credit students per semester (1700 FTE). The Science, Allied Health & Engineering Division offers many 3- and 4-credit science courses in support of the General Studies and Liberal Arts A.S. degrees...

Successful academic transfer, job-ready skills lacking part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Preparing Students in Two-year Colleges for Careers:Essays
Renee Faatz, Snow College
Snow College has a longstanding reputation for producing geology majors that are well prepared for transfer. The strengths of our little geology program (I am a one person department) include recruiting good students and major's courses that are rigorous and focus on fieldwork. In addition, maintaining good relationships with four-­‐year institutions assures that my students succeed after transfer.

Texas A&M Geosciences and the increasing role of transfer students part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Preparing Students in Two-year Colleges for Careers:Essays
Eric Riggs, Humboldt State University
Texas A&M University at College Station is the flagship university for the Texas A&M System, and as such is a major destination for transfer students, both from inside and outside the A&M system. The College of Geosciences consists of four academic departments and many organized research centers spanning the core geoscience disciplines of Geology & Geophysics, Geography, Oceanography and Atmospheric Sciences...

A "Jobs in Geosciences" Speaker Series: Addressing What Geologists Really Do part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Preparing Students in Two-year Colleges for Careers:Essays
Lynsey LeMay, Virginia Peninsula Community College
The geology department at Thomas Nelson Community College (TNCC) recently initiated a program to bring geologists employed in a variety of fields to campus. Noted both anecdotally and through survey data collected about perceptions and careers in geosciences, students often have misconceptions about what geologists actually do in their various job functions. To address these misconceptions, the "jobs in geosciences" speaker series was started. This was funded by a small grant from the TNCC Educational Foundation.