Teach Students How to Learn
Research shows that an awareness of the learning process can improve learning dramatically (e.g. How People Learn , NRC 2000), but students are rarely taught how to develop this awareness. We can help our students to improve their learning by having them think about their thinking and by helping them to become aware of and monitor their learning strategies. As in all educational reform, you don't have to add everything at once. Explore adding one or two new ideas over the course of a semester. The important point is to try and experiment, and don't worry, you won't 'break' your class. Small changes can lead to great impact.
Incorporate Metacognitive and Other Evidence-Based Learning Strategies
The Role of Metacognition »
Exposing students to evidence-based learning strategies goes beyond teaching course content, but rather teaching students how to be the best student they can be. They will learn how to 'study smarter' without necessarily having to study harder. This will help students discover that learning is a process based upon skills developed over time. These strategies include metacognition, development of an open mindset, discussion of Bloom's taxonomy, and using the study cycle. A key resource is the book by Dr Saundra McGuire Teach Students How to Learn: Strategies You Can Incorporate Into Any Course to Improve Student Metacognition, Study Skills, and Motivation. You can also recommend "Teach Yourself How to Learn", a follow-up book by Saundra McGuire, to students. Several of the SAGE musings provide valuable information on this topic as well.
David Voorhees has used metacognitive strategies, Blooms taxonomy, and study cycle techniques in his classes to help students learn how to learn.
The North Carolina team used Bloom's taxonomy to rewrite student learning objectives with a focus on metacognition and growth mindset.
Daina Hardisty from Mt. Hood CC has been using metacognition her classes as well as leading seminars for her colleagues.
Andy Hilt from Portland CC has added a capstone collaborative final to his geology class
Advise and Mentor Students
Advising and Mentoring »
Good advising and mentoring are factors that contribute to higher 2YC completion rates. Within the framework of Guided Pathways (whether or not this is a formal approach at your institution), counselors and faculty are instrumental in helping students enter and find their path. As faculty, it is our responsibility to help students stay on their path, which includes helping them develop study skills, and providing transfer and career advice.
Mentoring can occur on many levels through all of these experiences, including peer mentoring, student-faculty mentoring, and student-professional mentoring and can be formal or informal. Mentoring can also occur between faculty and professionals. The key to mentoring is to share experiences in such a way as to increase confidence and encourage students to persist in geoscience.
The Michigan team supports students' connections to others in their courses and at their college by using the 'Four Pillars" and the Engagement-Capacity-Continuity model
The New York team has established an in-class peer mentoring program. "Through this program, student tutors work with first-year students in geology, marine science, and meteorology laboratory sections."
The Florida team built faculty-student peer mentoring into a 0-credit Geoscience Orientation Course that is required for all geoscience majors.
Tackle Confirmation Bias
Confirmation bias occurs when a belief system inhibits the ability of an individual to accept new or contradictory ideas, even when faced with contradictory evidence. For our students, confirmation bias can create a lens to alter or block a students' acceptance of new ideas or evidence. Engaging students creatively to confront confirmation bias allows students to think more broadly about opinions outside of their own experience. One way to address confirmation bias is to ask students to think critically about course content by incorporating existing data with contradictory outcomes and asking students to process and articulate their understanding of these outcomes. Underpinning science lessons in the context of social change or public discourse can also help students to engage and more easily accept new ideas outside their existing belief system.
- An excellent summary of confirmation bias in the geosciences and ways to combat it is outlined in the Iain Stewart and Deirdre Lewis article, Communicating contested geoscience to the public: Moving from 'matters of fact' to 'matters of concern Stewart and Lewis argue that by changing the way that we present data to foster a sense of responsibility students can more easily accept new information.
- More information about the history of confirmation bias as well as lesson plans designed to avoid this practice can be found at this, The Challenge of Confirmation Bias Facing History module. Further strategies to avoid this bias in the classroom are outline in this, Classroom Meditation Article.
- Tanner, K. (2010). Order Matters: Using the 5E Model to Align Teaching with How People Learn. Live Sciences Education, Vol 9 159-164
- Tanner, K. (2012). Promoting Student Metacognition. Life Sciences Education, Vol 11, 113-120.