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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.

Building Success Skills into an Oceanography Curriculum part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
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 part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
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.

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.

A New Geoscience Program in Energy and Sustainability Management part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Kim Frashure, Bunker Hill Community College
In 2012, I co-designed and launched a new certificate program in Energy and Sustainability Management (ESM) at Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC). BHCC's mission statement highlights sustainability and, the goal of the ESM certificate program is to enhance marketability of graduates for jobs in the emerging fields of "green" facilities operation and renewable energy services. BHCC is a large, urban campus located in Boston, Massachusetts, with a current enrollment of 13,504 students (1). We are among the most diverse institutions in New England with 830 international students from 94 countries speaking 75 different languages (1). Opportunities exist at BHCC to recruit and develop a largely under-explored, new pool of diverse geoscientists. However, urban community college (CC) students who are interested in a geoscience career often possess challenges such as academic deficiencies in mathematics & English, and a lack of awareness about academic and career pathways, mentorships and resources. The ESM program was designed to include the following to ensure the success of our diverse student population: innovative curriculum and skills in energy and sustainability, an industry-based advisory board, a freshmen science seminar, and accelerated and contextualized learning in English.

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.

More than the Classroom at Trinidad State Junior College in Southern Colorado part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Debra Krumm, Trinidad State Junior College
Debra Krumm, Trinidad State Junior College Download this essay (Acrobat (PDF) 13kB Jun13 13) Addition of new faculty plus the receipt of U.S. Department of Education STEM grants has allowed for the expansion of ...

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.

Accepting the Challenge part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
JoAnn Thissen, Nassau Community College
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
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.

Zooming Out – A Dean's Perspective on Geoscience Student Success part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
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 four–person 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 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.

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.

Techniques I Use to Help My Students Think About Their Learning part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Karen Kortz, Community College of Rhode Island
A lifelong skill is for students to think about their learning, or be metacognitive about it. Although metacognition ties directly to student success, it is often not taught, and it is a skill that many two-year college students lack. One of my goals is to purposefully structure my courses to help students focus on and be more aware of their own learning.

I Will Try (Almost) Anything Once!!! part of SAGE 2YC:Workshops:Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges:Essays
Melvin Arthur Johnson, University of Wisconsin Baraboo/Sauk County
Education is a life-long pursuit for me. I have continually attended school, not only for professional reasons, but also for personal interest. I share this interest in learning in whatever class I teach. I want the students to understand that education is an opportunity we need to embrace if we are to live in a society that is both wise and compassionate.

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