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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.

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.

Building Success Skills into an Oceanography Curriculum
Lynsey LeMay, Thomas Nelson Community College
Student success and developing those necessary skills in students extends beyond the geosciences and while I use geoscience topics, I work to address and develop cross-curricular success skills throughout assignments all semester. This is true in all classes that I teach, but I will describe how this has been built into the introduction to oceanography classes at Thomas Nelson Community College.

Promoting Student Success using Universal Design to Decrease Barriers in Higher Education
Wendi Williams, Northwest Arkansas Community 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.

How can we broaden participation in the geosciences?
Kaatje Kraft, Whatcom Community College
Broadening participation in the geosciences is both an issue of equity and practicality. Current job projections indicate that more than 90% of all STEM jobs will require at least some college within the next decade (Carnevale et al., 2010). By 2050, the current underrepresented population (Hispanic, African-American, Asian and mix of 2 or more races) will comprise nearly half of the population (Day, 1996), as a result, the current majority White population will no longer be the dominant contributors to the job market. If Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) jobs currently held by the majority are not replaced and filled by individuals in the growing minority groups, the nation faces a possible crisis. In addition, those who obtain a college degree are more likely to be flexible as the job market shifts and changes with technological advances (Carnevale et al., 2010). Supporting students in the general education science classes to be successful becomes a critical step toward obtaining a college degree, particularly those who move into STEM fields.

Supporting Geoscience Student Success
Anita Ho, Flathead Valley Community College
While I look forward to the workshop and learning about additional strategies and resources for effectively teaching the range of students I see, here are a few approaches I use to support student success.

Is Workforce Training The Critical Link To Get Students Engaged?
Pete Berquist, Thomas Nelson Community College
Teaching geology at a moderately-sized community college in southeast Virginia has taught me that most students coming into my classes 1) are there because they need to satisfy their lab-science/general education requirements, 2) perceive geology to be either "easier" or "more interesting" than physics, chemistry, or biology, and 3) really have no clue what geology is about. As the ever-optimistic instructor, I've forged ahead with my classes expecting that enthusiasm, dynamic and interactive lectures and labs, and attempting to use details to construct "the big-picture" would lead to the new generation of geoscientists. Increasingly, I've learned that my students want to see connections to "the real world" and that they have little to no concept of what geoscientists "do". As I've started incorporating more real-world examples into my classes, I have heard more and more to the effect of "yeah it's interesting, but what am I going to do with geology?". Apparently a meaningful barrier still exists for my students studying the geosciences in more detail, and it seems that stronger connections to the workforce could help elucidate what geologists actually "do", providing my students with more relevant examples of geology and that critical link to what they could do after leaving my class.

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 Salas 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.

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