Student Success in the Geosciences: Why Can't They Do That?

Overcoming Learned Helplessness, Change Mindset and Teach for Mastery

NYC/Long Island, NY - A Regional SAGE 2YC Workshop

This workshop is open to all full-time and adjunct faculty at 2 year, 4 year and K-12 schools.

We encourage faculty at 4 year colleges and universities to attend as participants and partners in student success in preparing them to transfer and in forming a network among science faculty and schools.

We also invite in-service K-12 teachers and pre-service teachers to better prepare students for college science and to become partners in our network.

We especially encourage students to attend to learn ways they can help themselves succeed in all their courses.

Workshop Date: Friday, November 4, 2016 from 8:00 am until 4 pm

Participants may attend for the full day or for half a day. Breakfast and lunch will be served

Workshop Location: Suffolk Community College

Rooms 101 and 103 of the Corporate Training Center, Michael J. Grant Campus, Brentwood, Long Island, NY Campus, Crooked Hill Road, Brentwood


This is the third annual workshop in the SAGE 2YC local workshop series.

In recent years the demand for geoscientists has soared worldwide while enrollment in geoscience programs remains unchanged or has even decreased. Strong undergraduate geoscience education is dependent on effective programs at two-year colleges (2YCs). 2YCs play an increasingly important role in producing literate earth-science citizens, creating a competent and creative geoscience workforce, teaching science to pre-service K-12 teachers and providing a foundation for broadening participation in the geosciences.

Improving student success is an important priority at most 2YCs, but is especially challenging given the wide range of abilities, preparation and goals of 2YC students.

This workshop will bring together faculty, education researchers, professional geosciences to address these issues and share ideas and experiences. We will assemble a menu of best practices for attracting and retaining geoscience students and for preparing them to transfer or enter the workforce.

In this workshop we will address the question "Why can't they do that?". We will discuss strategies to help students learn to read and write in science, discuss cognitive processes within intro-level science courses and provide faculty with example strategies for incorporating innovative active learning activities within their courses. During the afternoon, participants will learn the value of including low-stakes research within their individual courses and programs and continue to develop partnerships with local 4yr institutions to broaden participation and facilitate transfer between institutions.

Workshop Goals

This workshop will provide strategies for increasing student success within intro-level geoscience courses and provide avenues for cooperation between 2yr and 4yr institutions. The goals of this workshop are to:

  • Document current practices for promoting student success (e.g., activities, instructional approaches, programs, support structures)
  • Explore strategies for effectively teaching all students, including distinct subpopulations
  • Develop approaches to engage our colleagues, including full-time and part-time faculty and administrators, in implementing approaches discussed at the workshop
  • Foster the network of colleagues who will implement and disseminate insights from the workshop

This Year's Focus

Using metacognitive approaches to helping teachers to help students succeed at:

- Reading Science, Writing Science

Studies have shown that a majority of students come to college unprepared to read and write at a college level. Many community college students start their college careers in remedial courses not understanding why they're there. They graduated from high school with good, or at least passing, grades. How do we take this population and teach them to read the language of science? How can we get them to write technical essays that include evidence of research, critical thinking and complex reasoning?

-Teaching for Mastery

We present our lesson, assign readings and maybe homework. At the next meeting you probably go over a few important points from the previous lesson or review the readings and/or homework assignments. You've allotted a certain amount of time for this chapter/unit and then they take a test. You taught them, but did they learn what you taught them? If they got a 75% on the exam, what was the 25% that they didn't "get"? Because when you build on the previous lesson for the next lesson you face a gap in knowledge which multiplies over the term. How do we teach for mastery within the parameters of limited class time?

- Designing and developing active learning methods and activities to use in our classrooms

How do we get our students to overcome their learned helplessness and low self-efficacy in science? How to we get them to accept that we want them to discover content and to be active participants in their learning? This presentation will immerse participants in understanding different active learning methods resulting in the development of a lesson plan using one of the methods covered.

- Getting students involved in research, projects and other hands on learning activities.

Designing and implanting active, hands-on research and field projects is easier than you think. Research has been done that illustrates the benefit of involving undergraduates in research projects, whether it is the faculty member's research or a project designed just for students. Along with active learning, undergraduate research is another way students take responsibility for their own learning, become independent thinkers, develop self-confidence, and gain in higher order thinking skills. Involving students in research projects can increase interest in science careers, especially in underrepresented populations. Carrying out independent projects also prepares students for higher level work.


This workshop is free to participants


Continental breakfast and/or lunch will be provided to participants

Registration Deadline:

Please register by Wednesday, October 26, 2016 indicating whether you will attend for a full day or a half day.

Workshop Conveners

If you would like further information about the workshop, please contact one of conveners listed above.

This workshop is part of the Supporting and Advancing Geoscience in Two-Year Colleges: Faculty as Change Agents project and is supported by grants from the National Science Foundation Division of Undergraduate Education through grants DUE 1525593, 1524605, 1524623, and 1524800.

Disclaimer: Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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