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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: Supporting First Generation College Students

Posted: Apr 18 2019 by Carol Ormand, SERC, Carleton College

In the early years of the 21st century, 45% of the students in public two-year colleges were first-generation college students (Nomi, 2005), and their numbers were increasing (Ishitani, 2003). First-generation students tend to be highly motivated (e.g., Martinez, 2018); they see college as a means to obtaining a job that will provide financial security (Nomi, 2005; Kirk, 2015). However, because families of first-generation students have not experienced college first-hand, they sometimes offer counter-productive advice to students (Davis, 2011). At the same time, college faculty and staff members may incorrectly assume that college students know where, when, and how to find and take advantage of college resources and services (Diamond et al., 2018). In addition, first-generation college students are more likely to be working full-time while attending college (Nomi, 2005; Darling and Smith, 2007), which makes it harder to meet with faculty or staff outside of class. Fortunately, there are many evidence-based practices that faculty can employ to support first-generation students' academic success and persistence (see references). And as with so many research-based practices, these strategies are beneficial to other students as well. More

SAGE Musings: 2018 Report on the Status of the Geoscience Workforce

Posted: Apr 4 2019 by Carol Ormand, SERC, Carleton College

About a decade ago, the American Geosciences Institute began publishing reports on the status of the geoscience workforce. This year's report, authored by Carolyn Wilson, is a detailed summary of trends in geoscience education and employment, with information compiled from primary data collected by AGI and from the US Government, the geoscience industry, and professional societies. If you are looking for information on the current state of the geoscience workforce and projections of geoscience employment opportunities in the near future, the 2018 Report on the Status of the Geoscience Workforce is a wealth of information. There are three topics in this year's report that I think will be of high interest to everyone involved in the SAGE 2YC project: trends in two-year college geoscience programs; trends in geoscience employment, including salary projections; and demographic data on the geoscience workforce. More

SAGE Musings: Strategies for Supporting 2YC-4YCU Transfer

Posted: Mar 21 2019 by Carol Ormand, SERC, Carleton College

Facilitating geoscience students' professional pathways is one of the key goals of the SAGE 2YC project, and one means to that end is supporting 2YC - 4YCU transfer. The National Science Foundation's GeoPaths program is extremely well-aligned with this goal. We conducted an inventory of strategies used in nine funded GeoPaths projects, several involving SAGE 2YC faculty members. Strategies to support 2YC - 4YCU transfer in the geosciences that are common across multiple projects include advising and mentoring, internships and research opportunities, providing students with career information and introducing them to geoscience professionals, aligning 2YC and 4YCU curricula, bridge programs, institutional collaborations, and financial support. While no program has all of these elements, each of the programs we inventoried uses multiple strategies. Here are a few examples of how each of these strategies is implemented. More

SAGE Musings: Geoscience Career Resources on the SAGE 2YC Website

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

When I was a faculty member, I gave very little thought to teaching my students about geoscience careers. I suppose I thought -- to the extent that I thought about it at all -- that if they enjoyed my course enough, they would choose to major in geoscience, would earn their Bachelors degree in it, and would then do what I did: go to graduate school. If I were teaching now, I would take a very different approach. There are a wide array of careers available to people with degrees in geoscience; it seems to me that I could find a geoscience career option that would appeal to almost anyone. Moreover, there are geoscience careers available to people with any college degree, including an Associates degree. If you would like to include information about geoscience careers in your courses, check out the SAGE 2YC web pages on providing geoscience career information to your students. More

SAGE Musings: Catalyzing and Sustaining Institutional Change

Posted: Feb 21 2019 by Andrew Haveles and Carol Ormand, SERC, Carleton College

Our world is changing rapidly. To prepare the next generation of students for their roles in the workforce and society, our institutions of higher education need to change as well. However, institutional change is hard (e.g., Kezar, 2014; Kotter, 2014; Kezar et al., 2015; Elrod and Kezar, 2017). Moreover, institutional change can be emotional, political, and messy, and is seldom as logical as STEM faculty might expect it to be (Kezar et al., 2015). The SAGE 2YC: Faculty as Change Agents project has engaged faculty members at two-year colleges across the nation in the process of working for change at their institutions. What can we learn from other projects engaged in similar efforts? More

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

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