IMPROVING GEOSCIENCE EDUCATION PATHWAYS THROUGH ENGAGING SCIENTIFIC AND CAREER EXPERIENCES
The American Geosciences Institute anticipates a future shortage of 135,000 geoscientists by 2022 and notes the geosciences are one of the least diverse STEM disciplines (Wilson, 2014a, b). This imminent need for well-prepared, culturally-diverse geoscientists must be answered by academic geoscience departments. In Rhode Island, the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) and the University of Rhode Island (URI) collaborate, as public institutions, to reach over 1500 students annually, via geoscience general education courses, and to train a growing number of geoscience majors. Thus, CCRI and URI are uniquely positioned to address this need.
The proposed partnership between geoscientists at CCRI and URI bridges gaps in the two-year college-four-year college (2YC-4YC) pathway. We aim to yield an increased number of geoscience undergraduates (with a target of 100 geoscience majors), greater diversity in the geoscience student body (with a target of matching URI demographics), and more effective training of students who are critical to the future of the geoscience workforce. We propose research-recommended components that require coordination between CCRI and URI faculty, including alignment of academic programs, development of a 2YC-4YC team-taught research course, targeted improvements to gateway introductory courses, focused recruitment of underrepresented student populations, mentoring of 2YC transfer students, incorporation of quantitative skills in upper division courses, and support of internships. The engagement of 2YCs has been recognized as an essential step in increasing diversity, through strengthening collaborations, addressing the academic and social needs of diverse students, and facilitating transfer (Adamec and Asher, 2013) and is also featured as a critical topic for action by participants of the Summit on the Future of Undergraduate Geoscience Education (Mosher et al., 2014). The diverse student body at CCRI (59% female, 41% minority) provides a talent pool that we look forward to bringing into the geosciences, through program elements that will benefit all.
(b) This project benefits individual students at CCRI and URI, will benefit additional similar schools as a model, and will benefit society in stronger talent pool in the geosciences.
Our overarching goals are to
(1) improve the rate of transfer from CCRI to URI in geosciences,
(2) increase the number and diversity of geoscience graduates from URI,
(3) enhance student training so that students will be more employable in geoscience and STEM-related fields, and
(4) contribute to the evidence base of successful practices in enhancing geoscience student numbers and diversity.
Objectives Activities/Data Sources/Timing
Goal 1: Improve the rate of transfer from 2YC/4YC schools in geoscience
ﾕAlign courses and curriculum between campuses
ﾕ Develop and teach joint CCRI-URI research skills course
ﾕ Hold curriculum alignment/course scheduling summit
ﾕ Align curriculum of introductory geoscience courses at CCRI and URI
ﾕ Update Joint Articulation Agreement (JAA)
ﾕ Project Records (course schedule; updated JAA; summit attendance; curriculum mapping) Ongoing
Improve advising for intended geoscience transfers
ﾕ Provide access to on-line advising site prior to arrival at URI
ﾕ Provide more frequent contact through advisor visits to CCRI and co-curricular activities
ﾕ Project Records (web site created; schedule of advisor visits and events)
ﾕ Satisfaction Survey Ongoing
Improve coordination between CCRI and URI geoscience faculty
ﾕ Annual faculty event for CCRI and URI
ﾕ Sharing of teaching resources (mineral/equipment collections, specimens, data, video, lab space, etc.)
ﾕ Establish discussion between 2YC and 4YC faculty about transfer requirements and expectations (before and after transfer)
ﾕ Project Records (attendance; agenda; course syllabi)
ﾕ Faculty Survey Ongoing
Minimize barriers for transfer students
ﾕ Dedicate advisor for CCRI transfers
ﾕ Establish personal, individualized mentoring
ﾕ Target student involvement activities for transfer students (academic and extracurricular such as tour of department, meet the faculty social, etc.)
ﾕ Establish group projects in 200+ level URI courses that facilitate relationships between all students, whatever their academic path
ﾕ Project Records (email contacts; group events schedule; course syllabi)
ﾕ Student Survey
ﾕ Focus Groups Ongoing
Goal 2: Increase the number and diversity of geoscience graduates from URI
ﾕ Recruit directly underrepresented groups from CCRI into GEO
ﾕ Hold recruiting events at CCRI
ﾕ Talk to student groups that specifically serve underrepresented and minority populations
ﾕ Collaborate with URI-CELS Coordinator of Student Diversity Initiatives, M. Fontes-Barros, to increase opportunities in geosciences
ﾕ Revise URI geoscience webpage to reflect a more diverse geoscience workforce and information about alternative careers ﾕ Project Records (schedule of recruiting events; attendance; communication with Coor. of Student Diversity Initiatives; Geoscience webpage) Ongoing
Build awareness of GEO in applicant pool/community ﾕ Enhance CCRI and URI faculty profiles on-line and through alum publications
ﾕ Increase presence at family visit/orientation events ﾕ Project Records (faculty profiles & publications; presentation schedules) Ongoing
Increase the internal transfers into a geoscience major from within URI ﾕ Work with curriculum directors in other CELS departments to make double-majoring in geosciences more feasible
ﾕ Advertise the New England Regional Student Program (NERSP), which provides a significant tuition break for regional out-of-state majors ﾕ Project Records (double-major program requirement; NERSP info on geoscience web page; online advising site; URI admissions materials) Ongoing
Goal 3: Train students to be more employable in geoscience and STEM-related fields
Build and enrich studentsﾒ software and quantitative skills base ﾕ Revise lab/active learning activities offered as part of the core courses in geosciences, embedding practice with desired skills
ﾕ Reserve time and space for peer tutoring (hourly undergraduate work) for students
ﾕ Deepen quantitative expectations in upper level courses ﾕ Project Records (course syllabi; peer tutoring schedule)
ﾕ Student Confidence & Efficacy Survey
ﾕ Pre/Post Course Exercise Ongoing
Cultivate data fluency ﾕ Engage students in data collection
ﾕ Incorporate quantitative literacy skills (e.g. estimating, error, quality control, basic statistics) into introductory and upper division courses ﾕ Project Records (course syllabi)
ﾕ Student Assessment
Train students to think independently, in the field, basic or applied research ﾕEmbed projects in the undergraduate curriculum that require students to articulate hypotheses, design research plans, collect data, and interpret results
ﾕ Provide mentorship for undergraduate thesis research (GEO499) projects
ﾕ Invite geoscience professionals to URI to share career-related information and tackle field and analytical problems derived from real data ﾕ Project Records (Identify and catalog what skills are being integrated into existing courses; mentorship program information; schedule of guest lecturers)
ﾕ Student Survey Ongoing
Encourage internships and apprenticeships ﾕ Create a workshop on applying for geoscience internship and research opportunities (e.g. REUs)
ﾕ Showcase past intern projects
ﾕ Provide multiple routes for application to internal and external research opportunities ﾕ Project Records (Increased participation of students in internships via GEO397 enrollment; workshop syllabus, attendance, evals; past intern projects) Ongoing
Goal 4: Contribute to the evidence base of successful practices
Disseminate internally at URI and CCRI ﾕ Share grant components and findings internally at URI
ﾕ Share grant components and findings internally at CCRI ﾕ Project Records (URI and CCRI presentation schedule, attendance, evaluations) Ongoing
Publication and dissemination of activities in Goals 1-3 ﾕ Submission of manuscript to education research journal and Geo2YC newsletter
ﾕ Presentations at AGU, GSA, Earth Educators Rendezvous ﾕ Project Records (list of manuscript submissions; list of abstracts submitted and workshops lead Post
Track student success post-graduation ﾕ Develop and implement student tracking and communication procedures ﾕ Student Survey Post
Increasing the total number of majors, to a target of 100 majors (~50% increase), and increasing the proportion of underrepresented minorities by the close of the grant will rely on high quality, effective program activities from the outset and a focus on recruitment from the most diverse arenas. The timeline of the proposed activities is given in Table 2. Although each PI will play a role in many of the activities, each activity has at least one PI who will take the lead to ensure effective implementation. A graduate research assistant, housed at URI, will assist in diverse academic and outreach needs to support all PIs on grant-related projects.
Since we are at the very beginning stages of our project, we cannot answer more specifically at this time.
(a)(b) Here is an overview of outcomes/findings/deliverables that we anticipate.
Through the use of a Developmental Evaluation (DE) model the evaluator (D. Mathews) will function as a member of the core team. The innovative and dynamic nature of the grant activities requires the evaluator to provide real time feedback that facilitates decision-making. DE involves long-term partnering relationships between the evaluator and those engaged in innovative initiatives and development. All team members collaborate to conceptualize, design, and test new approaches in a process of continuous improvement, adaptation, and intentional change. The evaluatorﾒs primary functions on the team will be to support adaptive learning, to clarify team discussions by asking evaluative questions, and to gather information to provide feedback and support developmental decision-making/course correction. The evaluation will provide formative and summative evaluation components, collecting and analyzing qualitative and quantitative data. Evaluation activities will be embedded in program planning and implementation and performed at all stages of the project (see Table 3).
The process of investigating, understanding, and improving the proposed program will be facilitated by the following tasks:
ﾕ Participate in the design of project record keeping to ensure that data are collected in a manner that will provide information usable in the evaluation design.
ﾕ Identify, design, administer and analyze evaluation and assessment instruments.
ﾕ Structure and conduct focus groups with project participants to collect information on project impact and effectiveness.
ﾕ Structure and conduct focus groups with project staff to determine perceptions on project operations and potential improvement.
ﾕ Analyze records of curricula, program outreach and dissemination.
ﾕ Complete evaluation reports.
Formative evaluation is a key component of our proposed project. We are initially proposing to include a large variety of activities, and our evaluation plan will allow us to determine which strategies are the most effective at recruiting and retaining diverse geoscience majors. Our evaluation will examine not just the change in the number of students, but what is causing the change, and why that change is occurring. We will use a variety of tools, including surveys and focus groups, to get at this information. As a result, we will be able to contribute to the evidence base of effective recruitment and retention strategies for the geosciences, including transfer students, and results will be broadly disseminated as previously discussed.
(c) We look forward to springboarding into more substantive projects focused on undergraduate geoscience research across the curricula at CCRI and URI.
The proposed work will increase the number and diversity of undergraduate students majoring in the geosciences, smoothing the transfer pathway. For all students, this project will enhance the undergraduate experience and provide new mentorship and paths to professional success. Changes made to URI and CCRI curricular programs will endure, and new community building events will foster a more engaged geoscience community in RI. Further, this project will cement emerging collaborations between CCRI and URI geoscience faculty, paving the way for future projects and serving as a positive example of 2YC/4YC partnership within RI and nationally.
Our findings have the potential to transform not only geosciences in RI, but also the larger geoscience community. Because we are purposefully choosing activities that have a relatively low cost to implement and are evaluating relative effectiveness, our findings will be adaptable to other situations. Our external dissemination will focus on the geosciences at both 2YC and 4YCs.
Individual student participants will be most directly impacted, and comparable institutions will learn from our successes.
Successful practices will be disseminated to the geoscience community through AGU and GSA conference presentations and a workshop and presentations at the Earth Educators Rendezvous. Participation in meetings beyond funds requested from the grant are typically supported by CCRI and URI faculty development funds as necessary. Additionally, we will present our findings through the vibrant NAGT-Geo2YC division network, including publishing in Foundations, the Geo2YC division newsletter. We will publish our process and findings in the NAGTﾒs In The Trenches, and expand the literature on 2YC transfer and geoscience recruitment and retention through publication in journals such as the Journal of Geoscience Education.
We are delighted to have funding for this GEOPATHS IMPACT project sooner than expected! We are currently reviewing our project timelines with attention to funding during the current fiscal year.
Cardace, Kortz, Savage, Rieger. 2015. IMPROVING GEOSCIENCE EDUCATION PATHWAYS THROUGH ENGAGING SCIENTIFIC AND CAREER EXPERIENCES. 2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)
Paper No. 187-9. Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs. Vol. 47, No. 7, p.478