Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 9:15 AM


WOLFE, Benjamin A., Division Chair, Department of Natural Sciences, Metropolitan Community College-Blue River, 20301 E. 78 Highway, Independence, MO 64057 and HIGGASON, Richard, Director of Educational Programs and Employee Development, Metropolitan Community College-Kansas City, 3200 Broadway, Kansas City, MO 64111,

Geoscience departments at two-year colleges (2ycs) face a wide array of challenges. Typically geoscience departments at 2ycs are housed in larger divisions of natural and biological sciences (perhaps containing even more unrelated disciplines such as social sciences, math or technical education), and are often single full-time faculty disciplines relying heavily on part-time faculty. It is critical therefore that a chair of a science division facing such a disparate collection of disciplines work to unify the division.

First, the division provides a connection point to the institution. This is particularly important for single-person disciplines who otherwise may feel isolated. The division provides them a place where their voices can be heard and where they can express some of the unique concerns associated with geoscience programs. Second, a division comprised of disparate disciplines provides unique opportunities for cross-discipline sharing, which, in turn, fosters collaboration. Third, while any collection of disparate disciplines may initially seem to have little in common, all members are faculty working at the same institution with the same mission of furthering students' educational goals. A unified division can reassure faculty that their concerns are not unique – in fact are commonly shared by all faculty. Furthermore, cross-discipline sharing can result in unique solutions to challenges.

In addition, geoscience (and other) departments can no longer afford to focus primarily on the needs of the full-time faculty. The 2012 Digest of Education Statistics report reveals a higher percentage of the faculty at public 2ycs are part-time (70 percent). Between 1999 and 2009, the number of part-time faculty for all institutions increased by 63 percent. Typically, adjunct instructors are well-versed in their subject matter, but may lack knowledge or skill in teaching. Some may have never taken a class on instructional strategies. As a result, many instructors replicate the teaching strategies that were in place when they were in school. To address this concern, faculty training needs to focus on interdisciplinary instructional strategies. Topics like Classroom management, Universal Design, and Active Learning are made available to both full and part-time faculty alike.