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SAGE Musings: the SAGE 2YC Project Blog

The SAGE Musings blog features bi-weekly posts that address topics related to supporting students' academic success, facilitating students' professional pathways in the geosciences, broadening participation in the geosciences, and catalyzing change. Although written for geoscience faculty at two-year colleges, most posts are relevant for any STEM faculty member. Check out the growing collection of posts and share them with your colleagues.


SAGE Musings: Characterizing Geoscience Teaching in the US using the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP)

Posted: Nov 9 2017 by Ellen Iverson, SERC, Carleton College

The Classroom Observation Project aims to characterize the teaching practices of geoscience faculty across the U.S. by observing a sufficiently large number of geoscience courses using the Reformed Teacher Observation Protocol (RTOP). The research team started as part of On the Cutting Edge, a nationwide geoscience professional development program supported by NSF. Since the spring of 2011, the observer team has visited geoscience classes from institutions across the country, with over 240 observations to date. Observed classes ranged from large introductory courses such as Physical or Environmental Geology to smaller upper level courses such as Structural Geology or Geochemistry. Instructors who have participated in this research project come from all academic ranks and types of institutions. More

SAGE Musings: Backwards Workshop Design

Posted: Oct 26 2017 by Carol Ormand, SERC

One of the sessions I attended at GSA this year was about On the Cutting Edge: Fifteen Years of Impacts on Geoscience Education. On the Cutting Edge is the professional development program for geoscience faculty that introduced me to many of the ideas and practices we are using in SAGE 2YC; in fact, Eric gave a talk in this session about adapting and extending the Cutting Edge model of faculty professional development for the SAGE 2YC project. One of the truly remarkable aspects of the Cutting Edge program was the effectiveness of its workshops, based on this workshop design philosophy.

The strength of the Cutting Edge workshops, which we work to replicate in SAGE 2YC workshops, is that they are planned using the "backwards design" approach, described by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe in their book Understanding by Design. This book outlines the process of designing a course by first articulating what you want the end results to be and then mapping out a path to that destination, aligning course activities and topics with the course goals. The beauty of this approach, besides its efficacy, is its applicability to many tasks in many contexts, including planning a workshop. More

SAGE Musings: 2YC Research Students' Experiences, in Their Own Words

Posted: Oct 12 2017 by Stephanie Schroeder and students from the 2017 Community College Cultivation Cohort

The Community College Cultivation Cohort (C4) is a National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF REU), sponsored by the Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI), an NSF Science and Technology Center located at the University of Southern California. C4 recruits community college students nationwide, focusing on students who are interested in pursuing a STEM career. Students participate in a 9-week research experience where they work in teams to identify and characterize a novel seafloor or subseafloor microbe. In addition to learning about research culture by being immersed in it, students attend weekly professional development sessions focused on succeeding at a 4-year institution and beyond. We asked this year's cohort to tell us about their experiences. Here are a selection of their answers. More

SAGE Musings: Using Bloom's Taxonomy to Boost Student Metacognition

Posted: Sep 27 2017 by Jenny McFarland, Edmonds Community College

The use of Bloom's taxonomy in teaching and learning can help us become more student centered, as it allows us to be more precise about what we want students to know and be able to do. There is a growing body of evidence for teaching and learning practices that explicitly address these cognitive skill levels and they can be used during one-on-one student faculty interactions in office hours, advising, or review sessions, as well as in class.

I use Bloom's-based Learning Activities for Students (the "BLASt" tool from Crowe et al., 2008) during office hours to help students assess and expand their learning strategies to practice higher order cognitive skills. More

SAGE Musings: "Blooming" Exams and Other Summative Assessments

Posted: Sep 13 2017 by Jenny McFarland, Edmonds Community College

Why "Bloom"?

When faculty are asked what they want students to know and be able to do at the end of a class or a program, we usually respond with high level outcomes. We want our students to understand the process of science and the role of science in society. We want our students to think critically and apply scientific reasoning in their personal lives and choices. We want our students to be able to use quantitative reasoning in generating and interpreting data. We expect students to understand and be able to apply core concepts in our disciplines. However, we may not be assessing these higher level, analysis, synthesis and evaluation outcomes as much as we assess knowledge and comprehension in our courses. "Blooming" our summative assessments – that is, identifying the Bloom's level of each item - can help us better align our ultimate learning goals with our practice. More

SAGE Musings: Summer Reading Recommendations

Posted: Jul 12 2017 by Compiled by Carol Ormand, SERC, Carleton College

I like to take a break from many routines during the summer, and that includes taking a break from writing SAGE Musings blog posts. I also like to make more time for reading over the summer. I asked the project leaders for summer reading recommendations, and here they are.... Some are directly related to our SAGE 2YC project, while others are more generally related to geoscience. Perhaps you'll find something of interest in this list, as well. More

SAGE Musings: Geoscientist Biographical Sketches

Posted: Jun 28 2017 by Carol Ormand, SERC, Carleton College

When I was in college, the only career I imagined for myself was following in my parents' footsteps. I suspect I'm not the only one. How can we help our students - especially those whose parents aren't geoscientists - imagine themselves as future geoscientists? Of course, simply providing information about careers and career opportunities is a good place to start. The SAGE 2YC website has a set of pages of career information, and these are great resources for you and your students. But sometimes an example stimulates the imagination, particularly if a student finds the example easy to relate to – just as it was easy for me to imagine doing what my parents did. This is where geoscientist biographical sketches, sometimes called geoscientist profiles, come in. More

SAGE Musings: Adjuncts

Posted: May 31 2017 by Carol Ormand, SERC, Carleton College

Nearly half of the people who teach undergraduate courses are part-time/adjunct faculty members, sometimes called "contingent faculty," and that number approaches 70% at two-year colleges (AFT Higher Education, 2010). Part-time or contingent instructors teach 58 percent of community college classes and 53 percent of their students (CCCSE, 2014). Responses to a national survey of part-time/adjunct faculty members indicate that of the part-time/adjunct faculty in the U.S.:

  • Nearly 3/4 have taught at their institution for more than five years, and more than 2/5 have taught at their institution for more than ten years;
  • Approximately half would prefer full-time employment;
  • Only 2/5 have retirement benefits; and
  • Just over 1/4 have health insurance through their institution (AFT Higher Education, 2010). More

SAGE Musings: Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

Posted: May 17 2017 by Carol Ormand, SERC, Carleton College

There's a lot of talk these days about the importance of broadening participation in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). But how much of a problem is there, and how do the geosciences compare to other STEM fields? What subpopulations are under-represented in the geosciences? How under-represented are they? As Huntoon and Lane noted (2007), citing data from the National Science Foundation, "graduates from bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs in the geosciences have lower ethnic and racial diversity than do graduates from any other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) field." Moreover, the racial and ethnic diversity of people earning geoscience PhDs in the U.S. has not improved since 2004 (Sidder, 2017). Likewise, while women make up more than half of the undergraduate student population, we earn far fewer than half of the undergraduate degrees in STEM disciplines (NSF, 2017) and we comprise only 23% of the geoscience workforce (Sidder, 2017). More

SAGE Musings: Communities of Practice

Posted: May 1 2017 by Carol Ormand, SERC, Carleton College

"Communities of Practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do, and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly" (Wenger-Trayner & Wenger-Trayner, 2015, quoted in Kastens, 2016b). SAGE 2YC faculty Change Agents form a community of practice, and I think it's worth taking a few minutes to examine this assertion. More