Initial Publication Date: June 10, 2016

Focus Group Meetings 2015 - Meeting Participants and Activities

Participant Recruitment and Demographics

Participants for the four focus group meetings were chosen to represent a diversity of viewpoints that could generate rich conversations about broadening participation in the geosciences at MSIs and 2YCs. Targeted recruitment was used for all four meetings. In total, 40 individuals from 34 different institutions and organizations located in 16 states participated in the meetings. A total of 8 MSIs, 11 2YCs, and 15 4YCs were represented. See our participant list (Acrobat (PDF) 21kB Jun7 16) for names of attendees and their institutions or organizations.

Instructor and Administrator Meetings (held concurrently, August 5-7, 2015)

Potential participants for the Instructor and Administrator meetings were identified by cross referencing publicly available lists of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), tribal colleges and universities (TCU), and Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) with the AGI directory of geoscience departments to identify institutions that already have geoscience programs. The project team sought to engage participants from institutions without geoscience programs as well as those from institutions that have had success promoting geosciences with URM students to ensure that a rich conversation would take place at the focus groups. Faculty members and/or administrators at the selected institutions were emailed directly with invitations to participate. As far as possible, instructors and administrators from the same institution were contacted simultaneously. In addition to seeking a balance of participants from institutions representing a range of current geoscience offerings, we also recruited participants from diverse geographic regions and diverse types of institutions (e.g., rural vs. urban, small vs. large, teaching-intensive vs. research-intensive). We invited every 2YC and MSI in the greater Chicago region to increase the likelihood that local institutions would participate. A total of 5 administrators and 16 instructors from 17 different institutions participated in the meeting. 7 MSIs and 10 2YC institutions were represented. 12 of these institutions have geoscience programs, and 7 were from Illinois.

Resource Provider and Education Researcher Meetings (held concurrently, August 9-11, 2015)

For the Resource Provider meeting, geoscience-serving government organizations, technical organizations with strong education and outreach programs, and organizations that warehouse as well as create geoscience education materials were targeted. In total, 8 separate organizations, 5 federally funded and 3 state funded, were represented in the Resource Provider focus group. Recruitment for the Education Researcher meeting started with a JGE literature search to identify authors of research studies focused on geoscience diversity, authors sharing successful URM student recruitment/retention programs, and diversity in higher education researchers who collaborate with geoscience educators. As a result, participants in this focus group included 3 geoscientists, 4 geoscience education researchers, and 4 education researchers specializing in success of URMs in STEM fields. These 11 researchers were from 10 institutions, 8 with geoscience programs.

Meeting Activities

Each focus group meeting was framed as a gap analysis in order to identify the current state of geoscience instruction at 2YCs and MSIs, articulate the desired state, and brainstorm about resources, programs, infrastructure, and other support needed to attain the desired state. Participants also considered the broader context of the geoscience community as it relates to broadening participation. To facilitate out-of-the-box thinking, a series of activities guided brainstorming and discussion of how key stakeholders might interact to bring about this desired state. An "ideal model" methodological approach was used to compare the current level of interaction between stakeholders with the desired state of interaction. Finally, participants individually responded to guided prompts in order to implement what they learned in their own contexts to help the community reach the desired state. Discussions and participant-authored web pages were recorded on our private workspace. The 2014 NSF-IUSE Ideas Lab, the 2105 Earth Educators Rendezvous hosted by NAGT and InTeGrate, and the 2015 ENGAGE meeting hosted by IRIS greatly informed the planning, organization, and execution of the meeting as well as specific activities.

Pre-Meeting Preparation

Prior to their arrival at each meeting, participants were asked to review a few resources relevant to the meeting goals and to individually prepare responses to questions. Resources and questions were available on each meeting page. Resources included reports, websites, journal papers, and videos related to diversity in the geosciences.

Setting the Stage: Evening Icebreaker and Team Norms

The initial evening activity was chosen to set a welcoming tone immediately at the start of each meeting and to communicate the goals, meeting structure, and agenda to participants. The icebreaker was held in a private room located at a nearby restaurant. After a presentation of the project goals, participants responded to prompts on Post-it notes. Prompts were slightly different between the two meetings to accommodate the differing participant contexts and meeting goals. After individual writing, participants stuck their completed notes onto large pieces of paper placed around the room. We then invited participants to walk around and view the notes, then to ask one another questions about what was written on the notes. In both meetings, this activity generated lively discussion and an opportunity for individuals to compare their personal and institutional contexts.

To set a tone of collaboration and respect, on the first morning of the meetings, participants were invited to pair with a neighbor and write on a Post-it note two possible norms that would guide interactions between group members during the Geo-Needs meeting. Participants then read the norm aloud to the group and added it to a poster. The facilitator grouped similar norms together as they were collected, and invited the group to create a collective name for similar norms. We believed that allowing the participants to generate expectations for behavior would not only produce more authentic norms, but also encourage the participants and project leaders to live up to the expectations.

During the Meeting: Prompted Discussions, Gallery Walks, and Guest Speakers

Two methods were used to guide participant discussion: think-pair-share and prompted whole group discussion. In a think-pair-share, conveners directed participants to specific questions. After a given time allocated for individuals to respond to questions, participants discussed their responses with a neighbor or in a small group. Pairs or small groups were then asked to report out to the whole group for further discussion. In the second method, participants simply responded to questions posted by the facilitators. Participants or meeting conveners took notes on the private meeting Web space during every discussion.

The Gallery Walk method permits a combination of individual reflection and group discussion. The meeting facilitators wrote question prompts on large sheets of paper, which were hung at intervals around the meeting room. Participants went to each poster and individually wrote responses to the questions or comments on other participants' responses. In a variation on this activity, participants used Post-it notes or stickers to comment on the written responses. Participants then reported common ideas or themes within each poster, which in turn was used to generate discussion, which was recorded on the web space.

Guest speakers were brought to the meetings to share new perspectives that could prompt creative new approaches to broadening access to the geosciences at 2YCs and MSIs. Each focus group meeting had between two and four guest speakers, most of whom were also meeting participants. All four meetings included a presentation by Jill Karsten, a program officer in the NSF Directorate for Geosciences, intended to alert participants to potential funding sources. At the Administrator and Instructor meetings, David Voorhees and Lorrie Stahl from Waubonsee Community College shared their experiences and perspectives on building their geosciences program. In the Resource Provider meeting, Jeffrey Froyd from Texas A&M University, presented a talk intended to give attendees researched-founded suggestions for how to develop, market, and implement educational programs most effectively. Two guest speakers delivered talks at the Education Researchers focus group. Lorenzo Baber from Iowa State University discussed his role as an education researcher partnering with geoscientists to study student participation in a program designed to recruit students into the geosciences. Caitlin Callahan from Grand Valley State University discussed how social capital theory can be appropriated for studying diversity in the geosciences.

Individual Reflection and Action Plans

At the conclusion of each focus group meeting, participants were asked to individually respond to prompts in the private online work space. They were also asked to reflect on what they had learned and to list steps they would take when returning to their institution or organization to implement what they had learned in an 'action plan.' Participants were asked to share points from their action plans at the final discussion of the meeting.