Perspectives on Supporting Student Success

This collection of essays was shared by participants in the 2013 workshop Supporting Student Success in Geoscience at Two-year Colleges, describing what activities they are currently employing to support geoscience student success in two-year colleges.


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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.

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.

Local Rock Outcrop Project in Physical Geology & Historical Geology
Susan Conrad, Dutchess Community College
One way I get Physical Geology & Historical Geology students in my mid-Hudson Valley community college to apply new concepts is by giving them the option of studying a local rock outcrop for their final project. The process is really a mini-independent study as students apply what they learn in class about minerals, rocks, maps, geologic processes, and plate tectonics to "their" outcrop. I visit many of the students at their outcrops. Students can also share their own videos and photos of their site visits with me. The geology of most of the outcrops has not been recently described or interpreted in the geologic literature, or even in local hiking guidebooks, in any meaningful way, so students really must make their own observations and interpret them in order to unravel the geologic history of their outcrop.

Accepting the Challenge
JoAnn Thissen
JoAnn Thissen, Nassau Community College Download this essay (Acrobat (PDF) 13kB Jun14 13) Because our department does not offer any type of program in the geosciences it's up to each faculty member to ...

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.

Tracking the Pathways of Students During Their Transition to the Early Career Workforce
Carolyn Wilson, American Geosciences Institute
The Workforce Program at the American Geosciences Institute has developed the National Geoscience Student Exit Survey in order to determine the relevant experiences in undergraduate and graduate school, as well as the immediate career plans of students finishing their bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degrees in the geosciences. Specifically, the survey addresses the students' education background, decision points for obtaining a geoscience degree, their geoscience co-curricular experiences, and their future plans for either entering graduate school or entering the workforce immediately after graduation. This work will begin to highlight the sets of experiences and expertise that the typical student graduating with a geoscience degree gained, as well as the industries that are effective at recruiting and the industries where students want to gain employment. Over time there may be some regional differences in these areas, along with differences based on the students' areas of focus for their degree. AGI's National Geoscience Student Exit Survey has been through a two-year piloting phase, and it was recently made available to any undergraduate or graduate department in the United States for spring 2013 graduates.

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.

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 ...

Ongoing Involvement and Taking Ownership of your Education: Homework, Feedback, and Interactions
Steve May, Walla Walla Community College
As a full-time physical sciences instructor at Walla Walla Community College, a rural 2-year college, and an adjunct geology professor at Whitman College, a small liberal arts college, I work with two significantly different types of college students. I am often asked about the differences I observed between these two groups and the answer is a fairly simple one, and maybe not what people expect. Yes, the Whitman students probably have somewhat better entrance exam scores, but that is not what I believe to be the most significant difference – to me it is the fact that most of the 2-year students do not feel any real ownership of their education, whereas the Whitman students expect a great deal of themselves, as well as their professors. The way these differences manifest themselves is that a professor at Whitman can expect the vast majority of their students to show up for each class having fully prepared themselves for the topics to be discussed and ready to ask informed questions during class; whereas the 2-year college students need some strong inducements to learn the value of being prepared and what it feels like to have some sense of control and involvement regarding their education.

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.