2014 GSA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia (19–22 October 2014)

Paper No. 94-5
Presentation Time: 9:15 AM


WEISSMANN, Gary S., Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of New Mexico, MSC03-2040, 1 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001 and IBARRA, Roberto, Sociology, University of New Mexico, MSC05 3080, 1 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131

Students of all cultures and background entering the university face challenges in determining how the university system works. Though most students have grown up in the US educational system, the university culture in learning may still be relatively foreign to them. To address this problem, we have begun to use self-reflection to affect how students approach university learning. We also use these same tools with interested faculty to help them see how their cultural background affects their teaching and expectations and to help them understand more about possible struggles their students face. We are currently examining two approaches to self-reflection. The first is writing a cultural autobiography. In this, students are asked to evaluate their cultural upbringing and how this affects their learning as a student. The faculty also complete the same task but assess how this affects their teaching and expectations of students. The second tool is an evaluation of cultural context in learning. Students and faculty not only evaluate how their cultural context affects their way of understanding the world, but also the cultural context of the university. We find that most students of color and women tend to approach the world in a “high context” manner, while university learning, especially in the sciences, tends to fall into a “low context” approach. Articulating these differences may aid students navigate the university system, and it may help faculty articulate ways to shift teaching to better take advantage of intelligences who approach problems in a high-context approach. Though we are just beginning use of these tools with a handful of individuals, those who participate seem to gain a better understanding of both paths to succeed and barriers that may exist toward success.