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'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
Membership in a professional society is one way for students to get started on preparing for their careers in the geosciences. Membership in professional organizations can help students develop their identity as geoscientists, meet professional geoscientists, learn about the profession and about employment opportunities, attend talks, and participate in local or regional field trips. Many professional societies offer free or discounted memberships to students. In addition, some of these national organizations have state, local or even student chapters with local or regional meetings that are more accessible to geoscience students than distant national meetings. More
Even as more women are attending college than men, we earn far fewer degrees in science than men (NSF, 2017) and are underemployed in sciences and engineering relative to men (e.g., Sidder, 2017). What can we do to attract more women into the geosciences and to help them to thrive in our field? Research supports a number of strategies for improving the representation of women in STEM, including showing students female role models, developing a mentoring program, engaging female students in research, and other strategies I've written about in previous SAGE Musings. More
Whether students choose to pursue a degree or career in geoscience - or even take classes in geoscience - is often influenced by their perceptions of geoscience careers. A recent study (Sherman-Morris and McNeal, 2016) found that "the geosciences scored lower than other science subjects with respect to student perceptions in its ability to help the environment, help society, help them find a job, and salary. This was true for each of the geoscience fields measured when compared with every other science, technology, engineering, and math fields measured with the exception of physics." Obviously, these perceptions make geoscience less appealing to many students. But are they accurate? Let's consider each of these perceptions. More
Carol Dweck's research on mindset provided extraordinary insights into the learning process. Her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, is well worth reading. But, knowing that nobody has the time to read every great book, here's a too-brief summary of her findings and a few links to related web resources that she and her colleagues have developed.
What Carol Dweck found is that a person's mindset is the strongest factor affecting their ability to learn. Let that sink in for a minute. Mindset has more impact on learning than general intelligence does. Here's why. More
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
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
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
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