Individual Growth and Development
The Faculty as Change Agents program sought to support faculty Change Agents' growth as instructors and leaders so that they could have a greater impact on their students and in their programs, departments, institutions, and regional networks.
Cheryl Emerson Resnick, Illinois Central College
When I joined the SAGE 2YC Change Agents project, I had been teaching a variety of geoscience courses for 26 years at Illinois Central College including physical geology, weather and climate, and an introductory earth science course. Over time, that narrowed down to mainly teaching multiple sections of the earth science course each semester. The lack of course diversity became monotonous and so did my teaching practices. My students weren't understanding concepts so I took more time with each concept, which meant not covering as many concepts as time went on.
Participating in this SAGE 2YC project has invigorated my teaching in so many ways. Even though I'm still teaching multiple sections of earth science courses, I have learned a variety of active learning techniques, educational practices that promote successful learning, methods of course design, and metacognitive approaches to improve my classroom experiences. Instead of slowing down through constant repetition, I'm covering more topics with active engagement from students. Class participation has improved: students talk, move around, write on the board, and are better prepared for classes. I used to wait students out in a silent classroom when I asked questions. Now I simply say "talk to your neighbor" (think-pair-share) and after a few minutes, open it up to a class discussion. The energy level and participation build as students gain confidence in their contributions and understanding. The challenge is making sure that assignments scaffold correctly to improve student comprehension. Whereas before I didn't know what to do differently, now I have a plethora of ideas to make my courses more engaging.
Since participating in this project, I have reached out to other faculty at our institution who share my interests in metacognition, active learning, and implicit bias. I have presented some of my classroom approaches at our college-wide "Celebration of Learning" breakout sessions. I am currently working on a mini-series of one-hour workshops for interested science faculty with the goal of improving the classroom experience & success of our students. I have developed relationships with other 2YC geoscience faculty through this project who I can share successes, failures, and brainstorm ideas with. I look forward to these connections continuing after the project has ended.
Finally, I am excited about increasing my students' science identity and battling the stereotype of scientists as White males. Showcasing a diversity of working scientists increases my students' interest in learning science as they find relevance to the world they live in. Hopefully, this improves the success of underrepresented populations of students in my classes and encourages them to consider a geoscience major.
Through these last three years participating in the SAGE 2YC program, I have developed an increased confidence in my abilities as a teacher, which I feel has lead to an increased engagement of my students. Some of this comes from experimentation in adding new pedagogies, and increasing others, into my classes (i.e., metacognition, flipped classes, gallery walks and more Think-Pair-Share, 3 minute essays, etc). I have seen some evidence of this increased engagement in student comments and some performance metrics. My classes have always undergone a continued evolution; however, I would probably say that the last 3 years has been a period of punctuated equilibrium.
Some aspects of my participation in the SAGE 2YC program that I am most proud of are the apparent increase in student engagement and the increased sensitivity that I now have for my students. Increased student engagement is demonstrated by a decrease in the numbers of students dropping, as well as many personal comments and email. The increased sensitivity comes from intensive research and participation in workshops and other professional development activities on diversity and Hispanic students. I now feel that I have tools to more effectively relate to the diverse students in my classes. I am also very proud of the increased diversity that I am exposing my students to, through the use of a "Look like me" modality. I have been consciously bringing in images and stories of URM (Underrepresented Minority) and women geoscientists and students into my classroom discussions. A recent extra credit project offered to students asked them to produce and create a short video on an URM or woman geoscientist, I think, was extremely successful. Please go to https://bit.ly/2KlqAU7 to see the current collection of my students' "Scientist Profiles."
The SAGE 2YC program has increased my contacts within the geoscience community in Illinois, both 2YC and 4YC. I have been more involved with the closest 4YC that most of our students transfer to, Northern Illinois University. This increased involvement has led to my participation in a National Science Foundation grant, providing international research opportunities for Waubonsee students, and identification of a dozen environmental consulting firms that I can refer potential geoscience majors to.
I have developed a strong sense of satisfaction that I am helping my colleagues be the best teacher that they can be, through workshops and presentations at Waubonsee and to our Illinois region. I would not have been inclined to do these workshops or professional outreach activities without the "motivation" from this program. This has instilled in me a desire to continue this collegiate outreach, and to become more involved in the newly formed Faculty Development and Engagement team at Waubonsee Community College. I have recently accepted a position as one of two full-time Faculty Development Coordinators of the Faculty Development and Engagement Department at Waubonsee. This is a one year position (2019-2020) that is renewable after the first, where I will be asked to provide leadership for advancing the college's goal to foster inclusive teaching excellence to support holistic student success.