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.
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I had an epiphany many years ago. It was in a workshop for geoscience faculty members in their first few years of teaching. One of the workshop leaders told us about a study conducted by Uri Treisman at the University of California, Berkeley. He had noticed that the minority students in his calculus course performed considerably better (Asian students) or considerably worse (Black and Hispanic students) than White students. Rather than assuming that this was a function of their ability to learn calculus, he set out to find out why. And find out he did. It wasn't about their capacity to learn calculus; it was about their study habits. More
Over my years of teaching, I have learned two lessons:
- We don't teach; students learn. All real learning is active and a biologic process that occurs in the brain. What we do is create educational environments and experiences that foster learning.
- Though we should never teach to the test, (most) students learn to the test.
In my Introductory Geology class, I leverage these lessons to engage my students in deep learning via case-based, partially collaborative, multiple-choice exams. I know that using multiple-choice exams to promote deep learning might sound impossible. Bear with me; let me describe how this model works for me and show you some examples, and you can judge for yourself. More
Do you ever wish that your students would take better advantage of your office hours? Do they apologize to you for "interrupting" on those rare occasions when they do come to your office, even during office hours? Some students feel that going to a professor's office hours is both an admission that they are struggling with the course material and an imposition on the professor's valuable time (Freishtat, 2017). Most faculty members I know find this frustrating, both because they would like to know when students don't understand the course material and because helping a student understand the course material is one of the most enjoyable aspects of teaching. What can you do to encourage more of your students to take advantage of your office hours? More
As many of you know, I take a break in publishing the SAGE Musings blog over the summer. I also like to make more time for reading over the summer. I asked the project leaders and participants 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. More
I am writing this Musing about the Field Leadership Safety course I took the Friday and Saturday before the Geological Society of America meeting in Seattle. I took this course for two reasons: 1. I really want to make sure that my field trips are as safe as possible, and 2. I am working to create a field course to the Florida Keys, so I figured taking a field safety course was in my best interest!
The book on which the course was based is Field Safety in Uncontrolled Environments: A Process-Based Guidebook, written by Stephen R. Oliveri and Kevin Bohacs and published by AAPG (the American Association of Petroleum Geologists). Kevin Bohacs ran the course and I must say he is a brilliant instructor! Very knowledgeable and really quite funny! Take the course in Indianapolis next year if they offer it! More
One strategy of the Virginia Change Agent team is to leverage currently existing opportunities for geoscientists across the state to advance the broader goals of the SAGE 2YC: Faculty as Change Agents project. Each year, the Virginia Geological Field Conference (VGFC) provides an opportunity for geoscientists to come together to do what we love—get out and see the rocks while discussing some of the latest research on the various physiographic provinces of Virginia. Traditionally, conference attendants are primarily academic and professional geologists, with a few graduate students, and even fewer undergraduates thrown in the mix. In recent years, members of the Virginia Change Agent team have served as leaders of the field conference, and have begun to encourage their two-year college students to participate. This is a fantastic chance for two-year college students to not only interact with other two-year and four-year college students, but also to network with a variety of geoscientists and to see how geology works in the field. More
Guided Pathways is a national initiative/movement that has important implications for two-year college programs such as geoscience where students typically do not "discover" the discipline until they are enrolled in college. The initiative is intended to increase degree completion rates as well as reduce the number of "unused" credits students accumulate that are not required for the degrees they earn. One of the major goals of Guided Pathways is to provide students with a simplified sequence of courses to ensure that all of the courses they take will "count" toward their degree. However, moving between different pathways is typically difficult.
Regardless of what you think about Guided Pathways, this type of initiative is coming to many two-year colleges in response to multiple important forces, including the linking of retention and completion rates to funding in an effort to improve those rates. More
The biological science education community has undergone considerable efforts to reform how science is taught, using evidence-based strategies to enable all students to be successful. One well-published practitioner is Dr. Kimberley Tanner at San Francisco State University. This Musing highlights some of her work that is pertinent to geoscience teaching. I encourage you to take a look at her publications and consider how to incorporate some of her suggestions into your teaching. More
I've recently begun dipping my toes into the research literature on sense of belonging and its effect on student academic success, and it is FASCINATING. Any student can wonder whether they belong in college; who among us hasn't had moments of doubt? These feelings may be more pervasive and persistent for some students than for others; for example, students who don't see many others "like them" on campus, including first generation college students and other invisible minorities. Yet "social-psychological interventions can unleash the potential of students and of the educational environments in which they learn." (Yeager and Walton, 2011). How? More
One of the three "strands" of the SAGE 2YC: Faculty as Change Agents project is facilitating students' professional pathways. Obviously, not every student will become a geoscientist, but we want to help those who do choose to pursue a geoscience career path. What does it mean to prepare our students to become geoscientists? Certainly one element is to make students aware of geoscience career options. Elizabeth Nagy-Shadman, one of the SAGE 2YC Change Agents, wrote about how she has students investigate geoscience careers in the March, 2018 edition of Foundations, NAGT's 2YC newsletter. Once students are aware of, and some are interested in, geoscience careers, we need to give them opportunities to build and strengthen the skills that geoscientists use. More