Regional Network Development
Goals for changes in the regional network
- Develop a regional network of 2YC geoscience faculty who share ideas and evidence-based practices in order to improve the academic success of all geoscience students in our region.
- Generate awareness of the needs of underrepresented minority students and inspire action by 2YC geoscience faculty in the Houston area to increase those students' participation in geoscience.
- Develop relationships between Houston area 2YC geoscience faculty and regional 4YCU geoscience faculty to facilitate transfer pathways and success from the 2YCs to the 4YCUs.
During the past three years, we have conducted annual workshops for full-time and part-time instructors of Lone Star College and Houston Community College. In addition, we offered follow-on activities in two of the three years. This yearly to semi-yearly contact gave all involved the opportunity to meet and talk and create relationships. At the workshops, we covered different strands of the SAGE 2YC project. Research shows that active learning is an impactful teaching method1,2. Prior to our workshops, many of the participating faculty were interested in active learning strategies but may not have had exposure to the many ways that such activities could be incorporated into classes on a daily or even weekly time frame. We introduced and modeled active learning strategies in a geoscience context so that they could see how to incorporate active learning to create a more student-centered classroom. Additionally, we described how growth mindset and the use of metacognitive learning strategies can be fostered in classes to help students become self-regulated learners.
The need for a more diverse workforce and the benefit that diversity provides are well known in both academia and industry. Geoscience is the least diverse science1. In order to increase the number of women and minority students who choose a geoscience career path, faculty need to be aware of barriers to success and inclusion that may be present in their classrooms. To tackle this problem, we presented aggregate class data for geoscience classes across the six Lone Star College campuses showing the success rates for different demographic groups tracked by the college over the past three years. The data illustrated the achievement gap between some minority groups and the Caucasian majority group. Discussions and activities about stereotype threat, implicit bias, and sense of belonging were used to put forward ideas regarding the development of inclusive classrooms to promote the success of all students.
Many of the Houston area 2YCs are conducting discussions at the administration level to create articulation agreements with the regional 4YCUs. These articulation agreements allow 2YC students to seamlessly transfer to participating 4YCUs. In order to understand the needs of our students as they transfer and to gauge the reception of regional 4YC geoscience faculty to 2YC students, we held a panel discussion with four geoscience faculty from nearby 4YCUs (University of Houston, University of Houston - Downtown, Sam Houston State University, and Texas A&M) and one geoscience graduate student who received an associates degree from Lone Star College. Questions presented to the panel included the preparedness of 2YC transfer students for the 4YCU programs, advising, and transfer requirements.
Discussion between all parties revealed two conditions regarding 2YC students: 1. the introductory geology classes that they completed gave them a good geology foundation, and 2. their math preparation was the single most limiting factor to taking higher level geoscience classes at the 4YCU. Without sufficient math preparation, there was a delay in their eligibility to take geoscience classes at the 4YCU. This delay could last more than one or two semesters depending on how many math classes they would need to take to meet the prerequisites for geoscience classes.
Through the three years of workshops, we have observed that participating faculty are using more active learning strategies in their classes such as gallery walks, jigsaws, minute papers, think/pair/shares, worksheets, etc. Faculty are also showing a greater understanding of how active learning can be used in class. Their discussions are more in-depth indicating their greater familiarity with the techniques. Additionally, participants of the workshops that began teaching after the start of this project, now come to us with new active-learning activities they have designed and tried in their classes. We have seen an increase in enrollment at campuses with the greatest change during the grant - students have learned of the positive learning environment and have encouraged their friends to enroll in geology.
When we first introduced many of the issues surrounding diversity and the data showing the achievement gap, we noted that many of the participating faculty had not looked at the data for geology students across their college and their classes in particular. Not everyone knew the data was available to them. Participants found the presentations and activities associated with implicit bias and stereotype threat interesting and helpful as they had not previously considered their effects explicitly. They were particularly interested in finding ways to make their classrooms more inclusive. [link /sage2yc/inclusion.html Diversity, inclusion, and equity'] are areas where more work needs to be done.
We have only just begun to develop relationships with the 4YCU regional faculty from the University of Houston, Texas A&M University, Sam Houston State University, and the University of Houston Downtown. We still have work to do in connecting with faculty at the University of Texas at Austin and any of the other UT campuses, the other Texas A&M campuses, Steven F. Austin State University, and others. We were impressed that the faculty we met were interested in developing a relationship with us. We had not considered that many of the 4YCUs were actively looking for transfer students from 2YCs. Sam Houston State University in particular has reached out to us to participate in their field trips and all have invited us to visit their campuses and departments with our students. As a result, we have taken our students on joint field trips with the geology majors at Sam Houston State University. We held meetings with students interested in majoring in geology and talked with them and shared what we have learned about transferring. At this point, we have been able to identify more students interested in transferring into a geology program. This is an area where continued work will be necessary before we see any outcomes evidence, including if these students stick with geology as a major. It is our expectation that these developing relationships will improve the transfer process for our students.
1National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (2015), Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering, Spec. Rep. NSF 15-311, Natl. Sci. Found., Arlington, Va. Available at https://ncses.nsf.gov/pubs/nsf19304/.
2Freeman S, Eddy SL, McDonough M, Smith MK, Okoroafor N, Jordt H, Wenderoth MP (2014) Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics. PNAS 111 (23) 8410-8415.
3McConnell DA, Chapman L, Czajka CD, Jones JP, Ryker K, and Wiggen J (2017) Instructional Utility and Learning Efficacy of Common Active Learning Strategies, Journal of Geoscience Education, 65:4, 604-625, DOI: 10.5408/17-249.1