Crossroads Project - Intersecting Workshops, Learning Communities and Research in Biology to Promote Student Success in STEM
National reports have stressed the need for a better student experience for STEM majors so they are successful, retained and continue into STEM careers. In addition, educators need to document studentsﾒ learning, determine the pedagogies resulting in learning gains, and promulgate this information to STEM educators. The Crossroads project provides community college students with an opportunity to develop basic skills. In addition, through a series of interventions prior to and while enrolled in Introductory Biology, students are immersed in a STEM experience designed to improve their understanding of basic biological concepts, form relationships with other students, and develop an appreciation for the relationship of biology to the other STEM disciplines. Faculty also benefit from this project by participating in a community-building STEM Faculty Interest Group (FIG) where ideas and best practices are shared.
The three project goals are to: improve student performance and retention rates in STEM classes so they complete their A.S. degree and transfer; foster a greater understanding of the process and interdisciplinary nature of science; and create a group of STEM faculty that produce learning materials to support student success, assess learning in a systematic way, and share their findings.
The Crossroads project includes a ﾓStrategies for Success in STEMﾔ workshop to help students improve their reading, writing, math and study skills. Students also participate in a year long Community of Biology Learners (CoBL) Group. These CoBL sessions provide students with online practice exercises, a review of basic biological concepts, and in-person problem solving activities. The final activity is a ﾓCampus as a Research Labﾔ (CRL) Initiative in which student teams formulate and conduct a research project that demonstrates the interdisciplinary nature of STEM.
The Crossroads project also benefits STEM FIG faculty by forming a community of best practices. Two faculty members attended national education conferences shared what they learned. The assessment measures developed by STEM faculty will be analyzed and they will participate in a focus group to determine how they have benefited from the projectﾒs offerings to faculty.
To date, a workbook on basic STEM skills, online pre-tutoring activities, and exercises for tutoring sessions have been developed. These three activities for this project have only been offered once. The project team is analyzing students� written reflections and STEM course grades. Students participating in the CRL activity are taking a pre/post-test on scientific thinking. Students engage with faculty as well as their fellow students so that they feel supported. The analysis of the project�s interventions will add to the body of knowledge about successful STEM pedagogies.
This project allows students to engage with faculty and students so that they feel supported throughout their college experience. The analysis of this project�s activities will be disseminated so others can learn about what works to encourage students success, persistence and interest in STEM. The faculty participating in this project will learn about how to better assess student learning and inform the education community about effective methods to improve student learning.
The students that participate in the project are given stipends, the textbook for General Biology and metro cards to cover their travel costs. One challenge the project team has found is that even with these incentives, students do not want to participate in the three activities of this project. Students are willing to attend a basic skills workshop; they also are interested in the group tutoring offered for General Biology I. The drop of attendance is greatest for the group research project and for the tutoring for General Biology II. The project team is considering moving the group research project to start during the first semester of General Biology I and extend through General Biology II.