Physical Science Instructor Deron Carter serves as SAGE 2YC “Change Agent"

Deron CarterLBCC Physical Science instructor Deron Carter is participating in a four-year pilot project designed to help students in the sciences stay on track to complete their science degrees.  

Funded by the National Science Foundation, “SAGE 2YC: Supporting and Advancing Geoscience at Two Year Colleges,” has engaged instructors from across the country to serve as “Faculty as Agents of Change” to improve student success, broaden participation, and facilitate career pathways into the science related fields.

Community colleges play a crucial role in meeting the nation's science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) workforce needs. They enroll over 45 percent of all U.S. undergraduates, and serve a large number of women, minority, and first-generation college students.

Carter is among a handful of instructors developing strategies to teach students with a wide range of learning abilities to help them stay on track and prepare for careers in the geosciences; especially important for first-generation students.

Now in his second year with SAGE, Carter is developing a Professional Learning Community at LBCC - aimed at providing opportunities for all students to be successful in STEM programs while at LBCC and as they transfer to their university program.
With support of LBCC’s Learning Innovation Center, his work includes providing equity and active learning opportunities for all students in geoscience courses.

“The idea with the professional learning community is for instructors to use evidence-based teaching practices in their classrooms with a goal toward engaging more students who might not otherwise participate in class,” said Carter.

For example, traditional class lecture teaching includes an instructor posing a question and students raising their hands to answer (often the same students). This tends to leave out students who are not comfortable raising their hands in class, said Carter. New teaching practices, such as “clicker” technology, gives students a way to answer anonymously, providing an opportunity for all students to be engaged with the curriculum.

In addition to working on best practices at LBCC, Carter is also working on ways to support STEM students as they transfer from LBCC to a university. This work aligns with an earlier NSF Grant project called GeoBridge, a joint project between LBCC and Oregon State University co-coordinated by Carter and OSU Geology and Geophysics professor Shan de Silva.

GeoBridge is a summer internship program that supports students transferring into geosciences at OSU. It’s designed to “bridge” their educational path from community college to university.

“Data shows that many transfer students face something that is called transfer shock,” said Carter. “When students move to the university, they basically start over with all new social and academic connections. Even navigating the larger institution can be a challenge.”

Many of these same students see a dip in their overall GPA after transferring. Often they become overwhelmed, especially if they are a first-generation college student. In GeoBridge, a cohort of LBCC students work on undergraduate research at OSU during summer term, working together on the same research project and supporting each other in the lab and the field.

“GeoBridge students work on skills that scaffold their upper division courses at OSU, so by the time they start in the fall, they know each other really well and have formed a network of students and faculty at OSU. They’ve also learned how to navigate the university,” said Carter.

Geobridge students are interviewed before they start their internship and again after completion. His data shows that not only do these students have increased confidence in doing science and identifying themselves as scientists, they also have increased expectations for their future as scientists.

Although both SAGE and GeoBridge have a geoscience bent, the concepts are cross-disciplinary. Carter is currently working with biology faculty Charlene LaRoux to support faculty in physical sciences and biology. He hopes to bring similar internships to all LBCC STEM programs.

“The SAGE 2YC project has really opened my eyes to the variety of tools that faculty can use to support all students,” said Carter. “There’s a lot of evidence that shows that traditional lecture style classrooms really don’t reach all students. It’s really about equity. We are working to implement ideas and techniques that will engage all of our students.”

SAGE 2YC culminates this June in a workshop at the University of Wisconsin, where faculty from across the country will work on institutionalizing their ideas across the sciences.  

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