Goals for change at the program/department level
- Increase enrollment by 10% per year for 2 years and improve student success in Earth and Space Science (ESS) courses.
- Increase student involvement in ESS program.
- Update and improve advising services provided to ESS students.
- Increase communication between faculty in the ESS program.
As a team with our department chair we worked to evaluate enrollment and student success data under the framework of a 5-year program review. As part of the program review process we met with the college Provost and division Dean to evaluate our findings and discuss future plans. We found that the low enrollment and success rates came from a few particular courses, mostly in geology. We adjusted the type of courses we offered; for example, we stopped offering a hybrid mode of geology courses that had persistently low success rates of students as compared to on-ground courses. Additionally, we agreed to rotate newer instructors through under-enrolled courses to see if we could generate some excitement around them and develope new ideas for re-invigorating the content. One of our instructors also added an additional certification component (CERT) to her existing course. We have been working to promote active learning within our own classrooms and have tried to help other instructors incorporate these practices as well.
We began work to increase student awareness of the Earth and Space Sciences through non-academic activities and a connection with academic advising. Several of our faculty advise student clubs related to the Earth Sciences, and we have been working to make those clubs more visible. We also have increased conversations with academic advisors at Bellevue College and University of Washington's School of the Environment. This has helped us to understand students' motivation and to provide better information to students on their academic pathways.
We worked to achieve changes in our departmental culture by involving colleagues in this project and the parallel program review. We hadn't been meeting as a program outside of an initial fall kick-off meeting, so we shifted to holding multiple program meetings during the academic year. We shared out what we were learning about student success and enrollment, took an inventory of departmental practices, and discussed future plans for the program. These formal program meetings generated many more informal conversations between faculty about the changes they would like to see. Several faculty felt inspired to take on a major cleanup and organization of several classrooms, which is making room for new supplies and more welcoming workspace. Additionally a majority of our adjunct instructors opted to take part in a workshop led by Dana and Rick about incorporating active learning strategies for student success, which showed us that there was strong interest among our faculty for additional professional development opportunities.
We have not yet seen substantial changes to enrollment or success rates throughout the program. However, we have seen some improvements in the diversity of students enrolled in geology and oceanography courses. During the most recent academic year, the proportion of students from traditionally under-represented populations enrolled in geology and oceanography courses roughly matched the overall college demographics. This showed an improvement from our starting point, and we hope it is evidence of a positive and persistent change.
We feel the strongest gains were made in working with colleagues to build a more connected program. Holding program meetings more regularly was a big step for establishing a stronger sense of community within our department. Faculty who attended our workshop appreciated the chance to learn and share ideas for active learning strategies. We notice a stronger sense of identity within the Earth and Space Science department. We recently enjoyed our first annual ESS program retreat, which was a wonderful team-building and family-friendly weekend event. Adjunct and full-time faculty are more energized and communicative than before.
We took time to communicate our plans to administrators, and felt that those conversations went well. However, we know we will need to revisit those conversations to continue to push for the institutional support we will need to maintain a well-staffed program and to get approval for updates to our teaching spaces.