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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: The Power of Affirming Your Values

Posted: Jan 17 2018 by Carol Ormand, SERC, Carleton College

Values affirmation is an evidence-based classroom intervention that produces remarkable results for minimal effort. When students write for just a few minutes about their most important values, those who belong to groups that are underrepresented in the STEM disciplines - women of all races, racial and ethnic minorities of both genders - earn significantly higher grades, and in some studies completely close the "achievement gap" with their White male peers. Two studies illustrate this phenomenon, each involving hundreds of students in random, double-blind, controlled experiments. More

SAGE Musings: Flipping Your Class

Posted: Jan 4 2018 by Dave Voorhees, Waubonsee Community College

I gave a presentation at the October 2017 Geological Society of America meeting in Seattle, on "Flipping or Flopping in a General Education Science class" in the session The Challenge of Defining Student Success: Broadening Participation, Measuring Success, and Preparing 2YC and 4YC Students for a Variety of Transitions. In it I described an ongoing experiment I am conducting on flipping a classroom. A flipped classroom is where the students prepare beforehand by reading the textbook, watching videos which cover the required material in that class, or other appropriate assignment(s), thereby leaving the class-time for active engagement exercises. More

SAGE Musings: Cultivating Students' Voices

Posted: Dec 7 2017 by Carol Ormand, SERC

Several articles related to inclusive teaching have popped into my inbox recently. One of the themes of these articles that I find interesting is the importance of hearing from all of the students in our classrooms. Talking about science is one of the ways our students take ownership of their knowledge, and of course asking questions is one of the ways people can clarify their understanding. Hearing our students talk about science is also a great way to find out what they do and don't know and understand. Yet, in most classrooms, a small minority of students tend to answer our questions and dominate large group discussions. Moreover, these few students are unlikely to be representative of the diversity within the classroom. What can instructors do to cultivate every student's voice? More

SAGE Musings: Mapping the SAGE 2YC Change Agent Network

Posted: Nov 21 2017 by Debra Bragg, Bragg & Associates, Inc.

One goal for the SAGE 2YC project is to develop a self-sustaining network of geoscience faculty members at two-year colleges, a network that will endure beyond the end of the grant. It's the job of the project's evaluation team to evaluate the project's success in reaching its goals. How does one go about measuring a network?

One method for measuring a network is called social network analysis (e.g., Quardokus and Henderson, 2015). If you are a SAGE 2YC Cohort I Change Agent, you completed a survey at our June 2017 workshop in Tacoma. This survey asked about your interactions with other members of the SAGE 2YC project - your fellow Cohort I Change Agents, the project leader team, and the research and evaluation team. The survey was short but it provided a lot of useful information about who we are as a group, and I want to use this blog post to share some interesting outcomes with everyone. Seeing what our network looked like in June, 2017, provides a basis of comparison for measuring how it grows and changes over the next two years, including changes that will occur as we integrate Cohort II into our work. More

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