Individual Growth and Development

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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.

Deron Carter, Linn-Benton Community College

Participation in this project has really empowered me as a change agent at the course and program levels. I came into teaching fresh out of graduate school, armed with a plethora of knowledge, making it easy to know what to teach. However, like many new faculty, I had no idea how to teach. Early in my career, I devoted most of my professional development to learning how to teach, and discovering specific active learning techniques that can improve student engagement. For me, one of the most important aspects of participating in the project is the project emphasis on who we teach, and the role active learning plays in supporting the success of all students. So, one of the biggest take homes of the project for me is really thinking how I can structure a class to provide opportunities for all students to succeed.

Evidence-based practices inform me of how and what changes I make. Research shows that all students are more likely to be engaged when the science is taught in a socially-relevant scenario, and every course meeting provides the opportunity for students to engage, test, and teach each other through active learning, such as think-pair-share, concept tests using clickers, gallery walks, and structured discussions. For instance, I've redesigned a physical geology course focused on surface processes around three units: 1) mapping landslide hazards, 2) water and society, and 3) melting glaciers, rising seas. Each of these units allow students to learn geoscience content and skills in a relevant context. Class time is used to make observations, evaluate data, and answer open-ended questions, such as where is a landslide most likely to occur in the local area.

Shannon Othus-Gault, Chemeketa Community College

At the beginning of this project I was in my second year of full-time teaching and was really looking for specific ways to strengthen my teaching practices. I wanted to be able to acquire knowledge about research-based practices that increase student success so that I could act as a support in my department to strengthen not only my classroom for my own students but to strengthen the geoscience program at Chemeketa.

Some of the practices I have adopted have been small but have had a fairly large impact. Two individual practices I have implemented as a result of information learned as an agent of change has been incorporating essential questions posed on my whiteboard for each lecture and the use of exam wrappers to facilitate student metacognition. An essential question, for example, for a lecture about earthquakes could be, "What geologic environments produce earthquakes and where might we find these environments?" Students have told me that the essential questions before lecture have helped them to better focus their note taking and studying for exams.

The most surprising addition to my pedagogy was the inclusion of an exam wrapper. I implemented their use in the fall of 2018 for all of my exams and saw a very similar message across all classes which was that students wanted some time from me in class to go over a portion of my study guide. Initially, after I read the fist exam wrappers, I scoffed a bit at the request because students get a study guide, why should I use class time to go over what they should be doing by themselves? After every class requested help studying I decided to try a study session. Based on anecdotal evidence, student scores went up and I assume there are several reasons for this including; 1) Students who usually wouldn't study were forced to study even if only for a few minutes and 2) Students were able to see the information I wanted them to know exactly. It was a change that took up about 20 minutes of class, but it had a large impact and it was not something I would have ever done had I not had students ask for it directly. After talking with colleagues about my success with exam wrappers, I shared my form with several other instructors who were interested in seeing how a wrapper could help their students think more about their studying habits and how, as an instructor, they could help their students better succeed.