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.

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.

Crafting an In-house Lab Manual for Community College Geology Students
Rebecca Kavage Adams, Frederick Community College
I am creating an in-house lab manual for historical geology at Frederick Community College (FCC). The manual needs to be tailored to non-geology and non-science majors, be affordable, and capitalize on the samples and equipment available at FCC. At this point we are still using a published lab manual that costs $125 and is a poor fit for our students and available supplies.

Back to basics using scientific reasoning
Mariela Bao, Portland State University
Any teaching techniques I have tried so far all revolve around the same goal: teaching my students the process of science, from the scientific method to using communication skills to explain their findings. Many of my students come to my course with a fear of science; most of them truly believe that they are not good in sciences. So, in this short essay I will explain two of my most influential activities that so far, have changed the dynamic of my courses. Instead of pushing the science, I prefer to explain the discovery process before I tackle any geoscience topic. Two activities are used: (1) What is it? (2) Describe and Sketch.

Supporting Student Success in Geosciences at 2YCs through Field Based Learning
Ben Wolfe, University of Kansas Main Campus
Ben Wolfe, Metropolitan Community College Download this essay (Acrobat (PDF) 42kB Jun13 13) The overwhelming majority of students at my institution take geoscience courses (e.g. physical geology or physical ...

Supporting Geoscience Education at the University of Wisconsin-Richland
Norlene Emerson, University of Wisconsin-Platteville
As I reflect on the goals that I have to support student success in geoscience courses, my thoughts first turn toward strategies I use to connect with each student as an individual learner. Since our students each have different skills, prior knowledge, capabilities, and reasons for being in school, I seek ways to provide content in visual, tactile, and audio means so that each student can connect to the material in the form that best suits their learning styles in order to optimize their learning. While content is important, the process of learning is just as important in an educational experience. Today's students are bombarded with information through social media, television, and print media often with sensationalized information concerning the Earth and the environment. Students need to develop their skills to assess critically what they hear and read especially concerning world issues such as mineral and energy resources, climate change, or mitigating natural disasters.

Supporting Student Success
David Voorhees, Waubonsee Community College
The reason I became a geology instructor is that I want to instill the passion I have for the earth in my students. I want to be able to give to my students some of the understanding of how the earth works, because they are to become the stewards of this planet long after I am gone. I feel that I am not able to bring this passion and understanding to many of my students, and I continually try to engage all of my students, just as the geosciences engage all of them in their everyday lives. Most all effective instructors have a 'bag of tricks' through which they engage their students that evolves, as it should, as we get different populations of students in our classrooms. As most of my General Education, Survey of Earth Science students are millennials, engaging them is one of my biggest challenges as a geoscience educator. I have developed several ways that I think, bring to my students the nature of science, scientific inquiry, and along the way, make the content relevant to their lives. They fall into two groups: place-basedintegration and mentoring.

Beginning a Geoscience Program at a Two-Year College
Brett Dooley, Patrick Henry Community College
I teach at Patrick Henry Community College, which resides in a fairly rural and economically depressed part of Virginia. Many of our students are first generation college students and are coming back to school for retraining after having lost a factory job. With the exception of earth science (GOL110), which is not a transferrable science course for general studies students and thus never had any significant enrollment, PHCC has only offered geology classes for four years. Having started the geology program at PHCC, there are three main areas upon which I am focusing to support geoscience students: introduction to the value of geoscience and access, transfer and career option, and training with workforce and transfer skills.

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 ...

Engagement Is My Key to Student Success
Kristie Bradford, The Lone Star College System
Like many two-year colleges, my students form a diverse population. I have students from just out of high school to those nearer to retirement. Approximately a third of my students are the first generation in their family to attend college. A slim majority of my students are white, many are Latinos, a few are of Asian or African descent. The majority of my students work at least part-time; however, some work full-time. Many are parents. As a result, their educational experience is often quite challenging to them; and therefore, I must give them the greatest possible opportunity to learn in the classroom and to have a diverse approach to teaching each class.