Diversity in support of diversity: Diversity of offerings of AMS Climate Studies for a diversity of student population

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Monday, 5 January 2015
David Quesada, Saint Thomas University, Miami Gardens, FL; and R. M. Jones, B. C. Hedquist, T. E. Gill, and J. Sheermohamed

Handout (7.1 MB)

Science education is one of the biggest concerns in modern education within the United States and overseas. This is due mainly to the need of STEM labor and the difficulties experienced everywhere in delivering scientific concepts and critical thinking skills. Additionally, modern societies are undergoing unprecedented social pressure due to rapid accumulating environmental concerns as well as the skyrocketing pricing of education. In this context, this communication intends to present and discuss the findings from five college campuses from diverse locations within the United States for students enrolled in a variety of Earth Science and Meteorology courses supported by materials included in the AMS Studies Climate Course. The authors are all alumni of the AMS 2013 Climate Studies Diversity Project Summer Professional Development workshop and presented initial results at the AMS Annual Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia in February 2014. While the student populations of the five campuses involved in this study vary in demographics, students in the study cohort were primarily first generation college attendees and represented a wide range of demographics including a large percentage of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders and students of Filipino decent at one campus as well as large percentages of Hispanic, African – American, and Haitian students at other campuses. The majority of enrolled students are non–science majors and intend to pursue careers in mainly the Liberal Arts, Economics and Communication. Data were collected using a variety of methods, including online surveys through Likert items that compared the students rating of these Climate Courses to their Campus, College, Division, and Department Mean values for all General Education courses. Additional questions were included in end of course evaluations that were qualitative and encouraged open response and student comments and suggestions. These questions were focused on the enhancement of personal and/or professional development, activities and resources that could be added to the course to improve learning, improving the course and/or the instructor's teaching style and methods, overall evaluation of the instructor, and overall evaluation of the course. Based on the accumulated experience different scenarios are presented as viable approaches for a very diverse population of students and conditions of the offering. The alignment with student's interests (determined in some cases by cultural and social conditions, in some by the subject they are majoring in, and in some as a combination of factors) is crucial in motivating them to enroll into science classes and to show appreciation for these subjects. Prospective ideas on how to make this course attractive are discussed as well as the way to implement them taking into account the specificity of particular geographical areas. Another important point to be addressed is the enhancement of student appreciation for quantitative estimates within science and the use of technology for science education.