Illinois Change Agent Team

Cheryl Emerson Resnick, Illinois Central College
David Voorhees, Waubonsee Community College
Initial Publication Date: September 22, 2016


We are changing how geoscience is taught in our classes, departments, and regions to increase participation by all students and colleagues. We will promote student success in our classrooms, and increase the number and diversity of professional geoscientists by using evidence-based practices. These include teaching strategies that promote student engagement, increase student metacognition, and address implicit and cultural biases. We also are incorporating information about professional pathways and careers into geoscience courses. We will share these ideas with our colleagues, what we are learning about using them, and the materials we are developing for our own courses.


David Voorhees

As with many geoscience instructors at the collegiate level, I am well trained in the science, but have little training in how to be an effective teacher. Perhaps our best training in effective teaching is our enthusiasm for the geosciences, which is important, but has limits to its intended result of academic success of our students. On the first day of class every semester, I tell my students that I have 2 great passions. The first is to teach them about the wonders of the Earth and the geosciences, and to have them develop a new way of viewing and appreciating their surroundings. My second passion is to help them be the very best student that they can be, not only in my class, but in all others. I had been on a quest for several years before this project on teaching myself on how to be a better teacher for my students, as many were not engaged and ultimately received poor grades. That self-directed professional development involved participation in various workshops, presentations, journal reading, and engagement with geoscience education activities through GSA and NAGT. I felt that I was making progress, but it was slow.

The goals of the SAGE 2YC: Faculty as Change Agents program were presented to me such that it was clear that it would be an effective way to leverage my existing spotty training to help me help my students with my second passion. There was a strong element of the program that was to increase the academic achievement of all of my students through the introduction of proven pedagogies. I also hoped that I would be exposed to ways to more effectively engage the LatinX students in my classes, which is important as we are a Hispanic Serviing Institution. As the SAGE 2YC goals fit well with many of my professional development activities over the previous several years, it seemed like a quality fit. In addition, the components of distributing this knowledge and expertise to my colleagues at Waubonsee and in Illinois was enticing, as I knew that I would be saving those colleagues from having to reinvent the wheel in their pedagogical development.

Cheryl Emerson Resnick

My geosciences colleagues and I teach courses that students enroll in for their physical science credit, not as a major. We can have the greatest impact on students at the two-year college (2YC) level in a number of ways: improving science literacy, science identity, and learning how to be a successful student. This is my motivation for teaching. As a general education requirement, many of my students have the attitude of "I hate math" or "I hate science," and often say "I'm not good at science." This is especially true of my underrepresented minority students. Over my 26 years of teaching at Illinois Central College, I dabbled in learning new teaching techniques by going to conferences and/or workshops but lacked a connection to other like-minded 2YC geoscience faculty to share ideas with. The SAGE 2YC Faculty as Change Agents project changed this as it brought together a cohort of 2YC faculty who share similar goals and experiences. The project fits my interest in improving my teaching practices with the goal that my students' attitudes towards science would become more positive. It follows that with improved interest and building up their science identity, more students will consider the geosciences as a career. I am motivated to bring the resources I've acquired to a wider faculty audience at our college and am working to create opportunities to share these ideas with others. The Change Agents project came at the right time in my career. I have experience with the desire to make a difference, not only for my students but for all students. This project is giving me the momentum to be a catalyst for change at our institution. Whereas before I felt like a "lone wolf," I now have a cohort of geosciences colleagues across the country to reach out to for ideas, support, and opportunities. I am excited for the future.

Aligning with Institutional Priorities

David Voorhees

The SAGE Faculty as Change agents goals of increasing the diversity of the geoscience work force and increasing the academic success of all of our students in our geoscience classes through data-driven pedagogies very nicely fit into many of the goals of Waubonsee Community College. These include the Guiding Principles, the Transformational Goals of the College, the Educational Affairs Plan, and our Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Title V grant for supporting the retention and success for students.

The Guiding Principles of Waubonsee Community College that are addressed by the SAGE program include (1) maintaining a supportive learning environment while integrating technology into the human experience, (2) developing and appreciating diverse perspectives and learning environments, (3) empowering learners with broad knowledge and skills essential for making positive contributions in an interconnected world.

The goals of the SAGE 2YC program also nicely mesh with several of the Transformational Goals of the College. These goals include (1) to prepare learners for the 21stcentury by raising student achievement and completion through technological innovation and academic quality, and (2) to design opportunities by anticipating needs and removing barriers to learning with a focus on personalization and experiential learning.

In a broad sense, the goals of the SAGE 2YC program also support several of the strategies of goals of the Educational Affairs Plan for 2017 – 2020. Components of the strategies of this plan address one or more of the SAGE 2YC goals, but are not specifically included as specific steps within them. The selected goals and strategies of this plan include:

GOAL 1: Ensure effective teaching practices, high quality educational experiences, and consistent learning outcomes across all courses, programs, and services.

  • Create mechanism / process to validate consistent quality of curriculum and instruction among full-time and adjunct faculty
  • Enhance course-level assessment allowing for analysis of various modalities, locations, etc. to ensure consistent quality
  • Enhance or pursue external quality validation
  • Establish strategies to assess and document student achievement of college level learning outcomes
  • Enhance the quality of Academic Support
  • Create structures and processes that ensure meaningful, strategic, and ongoing professional development focused on enhancing teaching and learning
  • Provide professional development programming that supports Waubonsee's Guiding Principles and College Learning Outcomes

GOAL 3: Continually increase student persistence and success in courses and programs

  • Make changes to curriculum and instruction based on effective practices and collaboration with universities, industry, and high schools across transfer and career programs
  • Reduce achievement gaps

Cheryl Emerson Resnick

One of the goals of the SAGE 2YC Faculty as Change Agents project is to implement high-impact, evidence-based instructional and co-curricular practices that support the academic success of all students, broaden participation in the geosciences, and facilitate professional & educational pathways into the geosciences. These goals in the Change Agents project support many of the strategic directions and goal statements at Illinois Central College (ICC).

ICC Strategic Directions:

· Innovation – To model agility, creativity, and progressive thinking while leveraging resources to increase student success and prepare learners to meet ever-changing community and workforce needs.

The Change Agents' goal of implementing high-impact evidence-based instructional practices to support the academic success of all students ties directly to this "Innovation" strategic direction. Increasing awareness among both students and science faculty at ICC about active learning, metacognition, implicit bias, and building our students' science identity encourages deeper-level thinking and study practices that benefit students in class and in the workforce.

· Alignment – To develop and refine integrated education and work force systems based on collective understanding of student and community needs.

Helping our students to discover geosciences as a potential career option increases the likelihood of their transferring to a 4YC to complete their undergraduate degree. Developing connections with 4YC programs in Illinois helps to improve advising for our students so they will have an easier time transferring to their next educational institution.

ICC Goal Statements:

· Increase completion rates for all students, particularly underperforming student groups.

This goal aims toward creating systems that improve the outcomes of all students while targeting groups with high completion rate gaps (African-American, Pell-eligible, and part-time students).

· Improve college readiness, career readiness, and student transitions across the educational ecosystem.

· Align curricula with workforce, transfer institutions, and community needs to ensure ICC meets regional demands.

The SAGE 2YC Faculty as Change Agents project has strands that directly support the goal statements mentioned above. In particular, change agents are encouraged to learn more about metacognition, active learning, and implicit bias as it relates to improving the educational experience of all students but in particular, addressing the needs of those groups with high completion rate gaps. Change Agents faculty are encouraged to work with colleagues and administrators to affect change at the program and institutional level. Additionally, change agents run regional workshops reaching out to 2YC geosciences faculty in the area to share ideas and practices to achieve goals in the three strands.

This project description is part of a collection documenting work by teams of two-year college faculty to implement high-impact, evidence-based instructional and co-curricular practices at their own institutions in pursuit of improved STEM learning, broadened participation, and a more robust STEM workforce.

Explore the whole collection »

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