The Geology of Mexico: A Quantitative Evaluation of a Course Designed to Increase the Number of Hispanic Students Participating in the Geosciences at California State University, Sacramento

By Hammersley, Lisa C.; Levine, R. et al. | Journal of Geoscience Education, May 2012 | Go to article overview

The Geology of Mexico: A Quantitative Evaluation of a Course Designed to Increase the Number of Hispanic Students Participating in the Geosciences at California State University, Sacramento


Hammersley, Lisa C., Levine, R., Cornwell, K., Kusnick, J. E., Hausback, B. P., Journal of Geoscience Education


ABSTRACT

We present a quantitative evaluation of the effectiveness of a newly developed introductory course, Geology of Mexico, in attracting Hispanic students, encouraging them to take more geology courses, and recruiting them to the major. The student population in the Geology of Mexico course was 93% Hispanic compared with 18.5% in Physical Geology. We found that Hispanic students in Physical Geology earned lower grades than did nonminority students, while Hispanic students in Geology of Mexico earned grades comparable with nonminority students in Physical Geology. Overall, Geology of Mexico students also showed more positive attitude changes and were more likely to take another geology course. The recruitment rate into the major for Hispanic students in Geology of Mexico was 4.7% compared with 3% in Physical Geology. The recruitment rate for nonminority students in Physical Geology was 4.9%. We believe the difference in outcome for Hispanic students is due to a strong cohort effect enhanced by (1) the required lab component and (2) many students knowing one another because they belong to the Hispanic-serving organizations on campus that promote our course. © 2012 National Association of Geoscience Teachers. [DOI: 10.5408/11-243.1]

Key words: diversity, Hispanic, STEM, place-based

INTRODUCTION

The lack of diversity in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines and, in particular, the geosciences has been recognized as a problem for many years (Huntoon and Lane, 2007; Velasco and de Velasco, 2010). Hispanics made up 16% of the U.S. population in 2009 and represent the most rapidly growing ethnic group in the nation (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011). However, the proportion of undergraduate degrees in science and engineering fields awarded to Hispanic students in 2007 was only 8%, and the proportion of earth science bachelor's degrees was only 3.5% (National Science Board, 2010). In California, Hispanics comprise 37% of the population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010), and at California State University, Sacramento, 17% of the student population is Hispanic. Between 2005 and 2010, 61 students earned an undergraduate degree in geology from Sacramento State. Of these, 4 degrees were awarded to Hispanic students (6.5%). While this proportion is higher than the national average, the Geology Department at Sacramento State has long recognized a lack of diversity in its student population, as well as a need to increase the overall number of students in the major. In response to the national call for more diversity in the geosciences and with support from the National Science Foundation, a course called Geology of Mexico was designed and implemented. Our primary goal was to create an introductory geology course that would (1) be attractive to Hispanic students at Sacramento State, (2) create a fulfilling science experience for Hispanic students, and (3) encourage Hispanic students to (a) take more science courses and (b) consider majoring in the geosciences. We developed an evaluation plan to measure the effectiveness of the Geology of Mexico course in reaching these objectives. Here, we present a quantitative evaluation of the success of the Geology of Mexico course.

DEVELOPMENT OF THE GEOLOGY OF MEXICO COURSE

The Geology of Mexico course was developed with the following goals: (1) attract Hispanic students to an introductory geology course and (2) create a fulfilling science experience for Hispanic students. The anticipated outcomes were that Hispanic students would (a) take more science courses and (b) consider majoring in the geosciences.

In thinking about how to draw Hispanic students into introductory geology classes, where they could then be recruited as majors, we took as our models successful placebased classes at other institutions (e.g., Tewksbury, 1995; Semken, 2005; Pujana et al., 2006). While these courses are still not common, there is some evidence that place-based science classes can improve student performance, motivation, and critical -thinking skills (Semken and Butler Freeman, 2008). …

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