Essays

These essays were submitted by the workshop participants describing what they are currently doing to support geoscience student success in two-year colleges. You can download all the essays (Acrobat (PDF) 2.1MB Jul5 13) as a single PDF file.


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Using On Course Principles to Support Student Success
Al Trujillo, Palomar College
Palomar College faculty have recently received four-day On Course Workshop training on incorporating On Course strategies in their classrooms. On Course is a series of learning strategies for empowering students to become active, responsible learners. There is abundant data that demonstrates how On Course active learning strategies have increased student retention and success. Dr. Skip Downing details On Course strategies in his textbook, On Course: Strategies for Creating Success in College and in Life (Cengage Learning), which is used in college success courses.

In-Class Group Exercises in Introductory Geology
Fred Marton, Bergen Community College
One of the key challenges that I face in my introductory geology class is trying to show students who are not necessarily interested in science (and who sometimes do not have a good background in science and math) that the basic concepts we are trying to learn about are not overly complicated or specialized. To address this, I have used in-class group exercises and worksheets to introduce many topics. I want the students to use these exercises as a way of teaching themselves and therefore they are not asked to answer questions on topics that we have already spent time on (unless they have actually done the assigned reading). Instead, I present simplified scenarios or analogies that they can figure out by themselves and then I go on to explain and we explore how they are analogous to the topic of interest.

Promoting Student Success using Universal Design to Decrease Barriers in Higher Education
Wendi J. W. Williams, South Texas College
I began teaching as a graduate student, and have since continued to grow in my understanding of content as well as educational design and delivery as faculty contributing to both 2-year and 4-year public institutions. Through the years I have become increasingly aware of the many kinds of diversity in my students: learning preferences, amount of college preparation, first generation college-bound, ages represented by concurrent enrollment as high school students through retirees, persons with disabilities, English language learners, and military active duty and/or veteran status. Early in my association with UA-Little Rock, Earth Science faculty joined a pilot program with the Disability Resource Center. "Project PACE" was funded by the U.S. Dept. of Ed and UALR to teach faculty to use Universal Design techniques in order to reduce barriers for the majority of students while increasing access to higher education. NCES (2013) indicates that students with some college courses or who achieve degrees become members of the workforce at higher rates. If redesigning our courses lower barriers, then our 2YC population benefits even more in the long term.

Coyote in the classroom
Ethan Reese-Whiting, Northwest Arkansas Community College
My instructional approach has evolved to focus on active and inquiry-based learning as a means of exploring concepts in the general geology classroom. This has grown out of my involvement with the Eight Shields model of the learning journey and art of mentoring as described in "Coyote's Guide to Connecting with Nature" by Jon Young, Ellen Haas, and Evan McGown. While I am still in the early stages of adapting this model to the traditional classroom setting, I believe its approach has value in the general geology classroom as a means of pulling at students' edges of understanding and inspiring their curiosity rather than pushing them toward specific goalposts via the traditional lecture model. The application of this approach also forces me to discern between the material that is "need to know" versus that which is "nice to know." This helps provide focus in the classroom and reduces the chances to overwhelm students with minutiae they can easily find in the textbook.

Teaching Geoscience to Non-Science Majors: Using real-world examples and lecture worksheets
Marianne Caldwell, Hillsborough Community College
Marianne Caldwell, Hillsborough Community College Download this essay (Acrobat (PDF) 34kB Jun13 13) Teaching geology and earth science to my students can be a challenge, as typically only a few students are ...

Techniques I Use to Help My Students Think About Their Learning
Karen Kortz, Community College of Rhode Island
A lifelong skill is for students to think about their learning, or be metacognitive about it. Although metacognition ties directly to student success, it is often not taught, and it is a skill that many two-year college students lack. One of my goals is to purposefully structure my courses to help students focus on and be more aware of their own learning.

Real-World Motivation
Erica Barrow, Ivy Tech Community College-Central Indiana
I am excited to attend this year's workshop focusing on supporting 2YC geoscience student success. My name is Erica Barrow and I am in charge of Earth Science (SCIN 100) and Physical Science (SCIN 111) at Ivy Tech Community College in Indianapolis, IN. Ivy Tech is Indiana's only community college; the main campus in Indianapolis has current enrollments averaging 25,000 students per semester. I am the only full-time instructor in geoscience and oversee approximately 15 part-time adjuncts in my subjects. Earth Science and Physical Science are a part of the Associate of General Studies degree (LAS Division); Ivy Tech does not currently offer a specific degree in science or geoscience.

Preparing Our Workforce Initiative: Preparing Students at 2-Year Colleges for Geoscience Careers
Heather Houlton, Colorado School of Mines
Over the past year, I have developed a program called the "Preparing Our Workforce (POW) Initiative", which teaches students about the many different types of career opportunities that are available in the geosciences. I piloted the program by facilitating in depth and interactive discussions with geoscience students at 7 different institutions, including a 2-year college. The presentation emphasized the importance of integrating students' interests, within and outside of geoscience, and their transferable skills to their geoscience career goals, which led to an increased awareness of the diversity of careers in the geoscience workforce. Additionally, I presented pertinent information about geoscience workforce trends, such as enrollments, supply and demand data and salaries of geoscientists. Lastly, I discussed best practices for networking and how to land a job or internship in our field.

SAGE 2YC participant essay
Frank Granshaw, Portland State University
I see this as a good follow-up to the short-course by the same title that I was involved in at the 2012 national GSA conference.

Steps towards Creating an Engaging Earth Science Curriculum
Eriks Puris, Portland Community College
When I teach I strive to "put the phenomena first" and to "put observations before explanations" I do this not because I want to, but because I have found it to work. Initially in my teaching I stressed the understanding and appreciation of the basic physical and chemical processes which underlie the workings of the Earth, unfortunately this approach did not get me far with community college students. Eventually by trial and error I found it important to describe what I was explaining before explaining it. In retrospect this is less than surprising, but at the time it was an important realization to me! I have found students to be more likely to 'bite' and engage in learning if I begin with specific examples which are accessible and relevant to the students.


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