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.
The biggest changes for me as a result of my involvement in SAGE 2YC have occurred in my classroom, in the corridors with my colleagues, and on a national level within the geoscience community of practice.
My classes are now peppered with pedagogically excellent active learning tactics and activities that help students see the relevance of geology/earth science to their own lives. Some of these interventions only take 5-10 minutes but are very effective. My instruction has gradually changed from significant lecturing to guiding, encouraging class discussions, group work, whole class activities, and lecturing in small chunks. I have a much better understanding of things like science identity and stereotype threat, and I am more familiar with tools to reach all learners in our diverse student population. Two SAGE-inspired activities that are now staples in my courses include (1) a geoscience career project I developed that gets students to interview actual geoscientists (described here: GEO2YC Foundations Newsletter March 2018), and (2) explicit discussions of metacognition, Bloom's taxonomy, and how to "study smarter."
Many of my geoscience colleagues at Pasadena City College attended our three regional SAGE 2YC workshops. These opportunities boosted our identity as a department as we learned together, examined our strengths and weaknesses as a department, and considered the unique needs of our students. We began bimonthly meetings in 2017 to continue these discussions and focus on our geoscience department as a whole among geology, geography, and environmental science faculty. In Fall 2018 we carried out a sustainability project tied to the International Coastal Clean-up Day in all of our courses, and intend to continue this department-wide activity every semester. I cannot overemphasize the benefits of attending a professional development workshop with your campus colleagues. It takes what you learn to another level, enhances camaraderie and collegiality, improves communication, and strengthens the department as a whole.
Over the past 8 years I have experienced significant professional growth, in particular due to my work in Project InTeGrate and this and other SAGE 2YC projects. I have met many new colleagues from across the country and collaborate annually on webinars and workshops in venues such as the Earth Educators' Rendezvous and Geological Society of America Annual Meetings. I have become involved in the Geoscience Education Research community. As someone working in a two-year college but coming from a R1 university background, it has been inspiring to learn so much about the foundations of geoscience education and apply it on my campus, in my department, and with my students.
Michael Vendrasco, Pasadena City College
Each semester I modify my classes based on information from SAGE 2YC workshops and other discussions. I try out more new methods each semester than ever before. I have enjoyed incorporating whiteboards into my courses, allowing a less stressful means of engaging with the material. Each student or group of students, depending on the activity, gets one whiteboard and a set of color markers. I have students do things like draw diagrams, graph predictions, and delineate the steps of a process. To help students struggling in my classes, I use an Early Alert System that notifies all students who have a low score in the class or attendance issues and pushes towards solving problems.
To help with student note taking, I have made a strong effort to demonstrate how to take notes during a lecture and discussion, and I have students turn in their notes periodically or full notebooks in order to get feedback on how they are doing in this task. On the first day of classes I taught and demonstrated to students the Cornell method of note taking, which allows space for after-lecture engagement with notes via writing cues (questions, key points) on the side of the page and a summary at the bottom of each page of notes. In addition to the Cornell method, we also discussed other approaches to note taking, so that students could think about and try different approaches to find the one that works best for them. I have observed that, even at the end of the semester, many students are still using the Cornell method. This indicates that students are typically entering college without a good note taking strategy, and the instruction at the beginning of class on note taking was helpful to them.
I have also been shortening my lectures and replacing PowerPoint slides with drawings on the board. I have made an effort to remove as much text as possible from the remaining PowerPoint slides. I have done this because of the improved note taking I see from students; when I show students PowerPoint slides, they passively watch, but when I actively write or draw something on the board, so do they. This slows down the lecture significantly, and means I have had to trim some content, but the slower pace allows students more time to process information, and as they draw diagrams themselves they can better visualize the processes. These changes are part of my broader aim to train students in metacognition. These are just some of the new methods I have incorporated into my classes since I joined SAGE 2YC, and I am excited to try new techniques in future classes.
In terms of engagement with the campus and regional community, in Spring 2019 I have been advising four students in research and independent study projects, and I am an informal advisor for a few more students. I also recently joined a STEM Faculty/Counselor working group meant to facilitate help for those students who need it. I attend regular professional development workshops at PCC, focused on equity and active learning, and our geoscience (geology, geography, and environmental sciences) group meets every two weeks.
I served on the Biology hiring committee and my training through SAGE 2YC helped me better assess candidates. Specifically I felt more confident in evaluating candidate descriptions of their active learning methods and their statements about bridging the equity gap. Through SAGE 2YC I have become more comfortable with the literature and terminology of these subjects, and I could more easily assess which candidates were actually using effective, tested methods and which were just telling us what we wanted to hear.