Initial Publication Date: August 24, 2015

A Focus on Students: Strategies That Work

Recruitment and Retention of Students from Underrepresented Populations

NSF has taken a leadership role in recruitment and retention of students from underrepresented populations in their sponsorship of the Opportunities to Enhance Diversity in the Geosciences program.

The SAGE 2YC (Supporting and Advancing Geoscience Education in Two-Year Colleges) program addresses the importance of two-year colleges in recruitment and retention of students to the geosciences. They have developed numerous resources on:

The InTeGrate project has goals: 1) to develop curricula that will dramatically increase Earth literacy of all undergraduate students, and 2) to increase the number of majors in the geosciences and related fields who are able to work with other scientists, social scientists, business people, and policy makers to develop viable solutions to current and future environmental and resource challenges. This project has developed significant resources aimed to recruit diverse students to the cohort of geoscience majors:

The geosciences recognize the importance of introductory classes in recruitment and retention of majors to the discipline. This is due to the fact that Earth Science is irregularly taught in middle and high school curricula across the United States (notwithstanding the best efforts of the former National Science Education Standards (NRC, 1996) and the recent release of the Next Generation Science Standards (NRC, 2012)). The SERC Site Guide: Resources for Teaching Introductory Geoscience has a wealth of information that supports excellence in instruction in introductory courses.

There is also a growing awareness about the importance of motivations and barriers to learning in the geosciences. The web module on Student Motivation and the Affective Domain provides concrete advice on strategies to increase student motivation, and how to overcome barriers related to instruction about controversial issues.

Strategies for Targeted Student Audiences

General References for Students from Underrepresented Groups

  • Broadening Participation -- National Science Foundation. Includes A Framework for Action and Framework for Evaluating Impacts of Broadening Participation Projects reports.
  • Obstacles to Recruitment of Minorities into the Geosciences: A call to action -- S. O'Connell and M.A. Holmes (2011), GSA Today, v. 21, #6, doi: 10.1130/G105GW.1.
  • Chang, M.J., J. Sharkness, S. Hurtado, and C.B. Newman (2014), What matters in college for retaining aspiring scientists and engineers from underrepresented racial groups, Journal of Research in Science Teaching, volume 51 (5), 555-580.
  • Clewell,B. C., de Cohen, C. C., Tsui, L., & Deterdening N. (2006) Revitalizing the Nation's Talent Pool in STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Urban Institute; Washington, DC.
  • Hurtado, S., Newman, C.B., Minh, C. and Chang, M. J., Improving the rate of success for underrepresented racial minorities in STEM fields: insights from a national project, New Directions for Institutional Research, 2010, issue 148, p 5-15, DOI: 10.1002/ir.357.
  • Doctoral Initiative on Minority Attrition and Completion--Council of Graduate Schools
  • Teaching Urban Students -- from Pedagogy in Action.
  • Urban Students, Urban Issues: Resources and Opportunities for Teaching Geosciences -- from On the Cutting Edge.

Focus on Hispanic Students

Focus on Afro-American Students

Focus on Native American Students

  • Weaving Native Knowledge into STEM Teaching and Learning at Tribal Colleges and Universities (2008). Prepared by Systemic Research Inc, Jason Kim and Linda Crasco; A report based on TCUP Self Evaluation Templates (TSET), Tribal colleges and Universities Program (TCUP) sponsored by NSF.
  • Riggs, E.M., 2005, Field-based education and indigenous knowledge: Essential components of geoscience education for Native American communities. Science Education, v. 89, p. 296-313. doi: 10.1002/sce.s0032.
  • Riggs. E.M., Robbins, E., and Darner, R., 2007, Sharing the land: Attracting Native American students to the geosciences. Journal of Geoscience Education, v 55, p. 478-485.
  • Riggs, E.M., and Semken, S.C., 2001, Culture and Science: Earth science for Native Americans. Geotimes, 46, 14-17.

A Focus on Women

Strategies for Enabling Success for ALL Students

  • Tobias, S., (1990), They're Not Dumb, They're Different--Stalking the Second Tier, Research Corporation;
  • Seymour, E. and N. M. Hewitt. (1997). Talking about Leaving. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
  • Jolly, E., P. Campbell, L. Perlman (2004) Engagement, Capacity, and Continuity: A Trilogy for Student Success. GE Foundation. The Basis of the "whole student approach."
  • Racial and Ethnic Minority Students' Success in STEM Education--S.D. Museus, R. T. Palmer, R.J. Davis, and D.C. Maramba, 2011, ASHE Higher Education Report: Vol. 36 #6, 139 pp.
  • The Whole Student Approach -- describes three major components: engagement, capacity and continuity. Developed by the InTeGrate project.
  • The Affective Domain in the Classroom -- the affective domain encompasses those factors that affect a student's ability to learn: motivation, curiosity, fears, barriers, social contexts, pre- or misconceptions, self-efficacy (students belief that they CAN learn). From the On the Cutting Edge program.
  • The Role of Metacognition in Learning -- provides resources for helping students to be aware of their learning; use of self-monitoring and self-regulatory behaviors to help students become intentional and life-long learners. From the On the Cutting Edge program.

Undergraduate Research

  • Undergraduate Research -- From the On the Cutting Edge program. Early engagement in authentic research is a proven mechanism to recruit and retain students from underrepresented groups.
  • Undergraduate Research from the Starting Point project.
  • Undergraduate Research as Teaching Practice -- a joint project of the On the Cutting Edge program and the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) to provide resources on "best practices" in design, development and supervision of undergraduate research projects.
  • Undergraduate Research: Engaging Students in the First Two Years -- explores numerous strategies to embed authentic research into geoscience introductory courses.
  • Undergraduate Research with 2YC Students -- from SAGE2YC
  • Enhancing Diversity in the Geosciences, Wechsler, S., Whitney,, D., Ambos, E., Rogrigue, C., Lee, C., Behl, r., Larson, D., Francis, R., and Holk, G., 2005, Journal of Geography, v. 104 #4, p. 141-149; describes an innovative program at California State University, Long Beach "...designed to increase the attractiveness of the geosciences (physical geography, geology, and archaeology) to underrepresented raise awareness of the geosciences by providing summer research opportunities for underrepresented high school and community college students and their faculty."
  • REU Programs
    • Windham, Thomas L., Stevermer, Amy J., Anthes, Richard A. (2004) SOARS®: An Overview of the Program and Its First 8 Years. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, v. 85, p. 424.
  • Undergraduate Research Impacts Retention, the University of Michigan University Research Opportunities Program

Internships and Co-Op Opportunities

Place Based Learning


Support for Developing Quantitative Skills

Topical Approaches to Engage Students from Underrepresented Groups