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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.

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SAGE Musings: Selected NSF Programs of Interest to 2YC Faculty

Posted: Feb 7 2019 by Carol Ormand, SERC, Carleton College

As the SAGE 2YC: Faculty as Change Agents project comes to a close, many of the faculty members involved in the project have expressed an interest in obtaining funding the support the continuation of their work. That's wonderful! We would like to see this work continue, too. Furthermore, the goals of the SAGE 2YC project are of high interest in higher education right now: supporting the academic success of all students, broadening participation in the geosciences and in STEM, and promoting students' professional pathways. In many cases, continuing the work of the SAGE 2YC project -- especially on your own campus -- won't require any funding, or can be supported by internal funding from your institution. But if what you envision requires a significant influx of funding, there are NSF programs that might be of interest. Here are a few to consider, listed in alphabetical order. Each of the descriptions below is taken verbatim from the National Science Foundation (NSF) website. More

SAGE Musings: Why Student Engagement is Not Enough

Posted: Jan 24 2019 by Carol Ormand, SERC, Carleton College

Despite several decades of effort to broaden participation in the STEM disciplines, the STEM workforce remains unrepresentative of the diversity of our broader population (e.g., NSF, 2017; Sidder, 2017). In the fall of 2004, Eric Jolly, Patricia Campbell, and Lesley Perlman published a paper entitled, "Engagement, Capacity and Continuity: A Trilogy for Student Success." In this paper, the authors outline a new lens for examining student success. Their lens -- the trilogy of engagement, capacity, and continuity -- provides insights into why some students fail, or fail to thrive, where others succeed. More importantly, it shines a light on what we can do to support the academic success of all students. Building on the existing research, the authors assert that "a fairly simple but comprehensive assessment and approach is necessary to create the ecosystem for student success" (Jolly et al., 2004). The authors "posit that there appear to be three broad factors, which together are essential for students to advance in the sciences and quantitative disciplines" (Jolly et al., 2004; emphasis added). More

SAGE Musings: Implementing a Values Affirmation Intervention

Posted: Jan 10 2019 by Carol Ormand, SERC, Carleton College

As I've written before (SAGE Musings: the Power of Affirming Your Values), values affirmation interventions produce extraordinary results for extremely modest investments of classroom time (e.g. Cohen et al., 2006; Miyake et al., 2010; Jordt et al., 2017). The differences in academic achievement documented in these studies are so remarkable that if I were still teaching, I would incorporate a values affirmation intervention in every class. Yet many faculty with whom I've discussed values affirmation interventions express uncertainty about how, exactly, to implement one. This may be because the details of the interventions are often relegated to supplemental materials published in association with the research articles describing their effects, thus making the implementation a bit of a mystery. I went digging into those supplemental materials for this blog post, in the hopes of de-mystifying values affirmation interventions. More

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SAGE Musings: Moving Toward a Student-Centered Classroom

Posted: Dec 13 2018 by Carol Ormand, SERC, Carleton College

Students learn more in student-centered classrooms (e.g., Lawson et al., 2002; MacIsaac and Falconer, 2002). Furthermore, student-centered teaching reduces achievement gaps across student sub-populations (Teasdale et al., 2017, and references therein). But what, exactly, makes a classroom "student-centered"? And what can you do to move your classroom further toward the student-centered end of the spectrum?

One measure of the "student-centered-ness" (not a real word) of a classroom is the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP). As the name implies, this is an observational protocol, and it comes with a rubric for observing what happens in a classroom. Just as students can use a rubric to self-assess their coursework, you can use the RTOP rubric to self-assess your classroom teaching. And, just as students can use a rubric to make adjustments to their work before turning it in to you, you can make adjustments to your classroom teaching based on the elements of the RTOP rubric. More

SAGE Musings: Addressing Implicit Bias in STEM

Posted: Nov 29 2018 by Carol Ormand, SERC, Carleton College

Implicit biases are unconscious, negative associations or stereotypes. As I described in my last SAGE Musing, implicit bias is pervasive in STEM, profoundly impacting the experiences of anyone who belongs to groups that are underrepresented in the STEM disciplines. Moreover, being a member of an underrepresented group does not make one immune to these biases; we ALL have them (Ashburn-Nardo, 2018). Fortunately, there are evidence-based strategies and resources we can all use to identify and mitigate implicit biases. In October, 2018, I attended a series of four webinars, produced by the CIRTL network, about implicit biases. In this Musing, I highlight strategies to identify and address implicit biases. More

SAGE Musings: Implicit Bias in STEM

Posted: Nov 8 2018 by Carol Ormand, SERC, Carleton College

Unconscious, negative associations or stereotypes are called implicit biases. Extensive research has documented that implicit bias is pervasive in STEM, that it negatively impacts the participation and success of people who belong to demographic groups underrepresented in STEM (women, underrepresented minorities, people with disabilities, and others), and that even those of us who belong to underrepresented groups have implicit biases. Fortunately, there are evidence-based strategies and resources we can all use to identify and mitigate implicit biases. In October, 2018, I attended a series of four webinars, produced by the CIRTL network, about implicit biases. This Musing outlines how pervasive implicit biases are in STEM; I'll follow up with a future Musing about how to identify and address implicit biases. More

SAGE Musings: NO-vember and the NO-lympics

Posted: Oct 25 2018 by Carol Ormand, SERC, Carleton College

I've written before about the fact that "time management" is really task management, and task management is really about knowing when to say "no." Today I want to explore that idea a bit further and describe two approaches that I have found to be useful: NO-vember and the NO-lympics. More

SAGE Musings: Who Has the Capacity to Succeed in STEM?

Posted: Oct 11 2018 by Carol Ormand, SERC, Carleton College

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

SAGE Musings: Using Exams to Promote Deep Learning

Posted: Sep 27 2018 by Christopher DiLeonardo, De Anza College

Over my years of teaching, I have learned two lessons:

  1. 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.
  2. 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

SAGE Musings: Making the Most of Office Hours

Posted: Sep 13 2018 by Carol Ormand, SERC, Carleton College

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

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