2002 Denver Annual Meeting (October 27-30, 2002)

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 2:30 PM


ARGOW, Brittina A., Physical Sciences, SUNY/Westchester Community College, 75 Grasslands Rd, Valhalla, NY 10595, Britt.Argow@sunywcc.edu

Numerous recent articles have focused on the balance between maintaining standards and achieving apparent academic success in our nation’s college system, often without clearly defining “success.” As professors we work to carefully define our goals for the course, but how do the students themselves define success? Most two-year colleges offer a student body of unparalleled diversity, leading to a wide range of student goals. Dramatic variation in students’ backgrounds, including cultural, economic, social, educational and motivational differences, nevertheless lead to a striking uniformity of desired student outcomes.

SUNY/WCC is a large community college outside New York City, serving a highly diverse suburban and urban population (enrollment 15,000; 40% ethnic minorities). Approximately 50 students participated in a voluntary survey over academic year 2001-2002 which focused on students’ backgrounds and goals for the course. The results indicated that many students did not have a clear idea of their own educational goals beyond attainment of a grade or ‘degree.’ While some individuals showed marked sophistication in navigating the college system, most students appear to be following a social trend pushing them to go to college despite a lack of personal motivation. Clearly there are benefits to exposing these students to higher education in order to spark their imagination and interest, but in what ways might this lack of individual motivation affect the student’s performance and success? More importantly, how can we as professors teach a rigorous and meaningful science curriculum without losing those students who are already at a disadvantage due to inadequate academic or social preparation?

This talk will be followed by discussion of these issues and suggestions of strategies for overcoming obstacles in the classroom on our way to developing a definition of success that meets both students’ and professors’ needs.