2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 13-1
Presentation Time: 8:15 AM


SNOW, Eleanour, Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas, Austin, 2275 Speedway, Stop C9000, Austin, TX 78712-1722, esnow@jsg.utexas.edu

OnRamps is a project at the University of Texas at Austin that delivers university courses in Texas high schools. The project engages university faculty, learning specialists, and experts in college success with an overarching goal of dramatically increasing the number and diversity of students who are prepared not just to succeed, but to excel at the university-level.

OnRamps Geoscience is being piloted in 11 high schools this year, with an expected enrollment of about 300 students. OnRamps is a dual-enrollment course; students are enrolled in both a high school course and a UT course, and the two are graded separately. Not all students who take the dual-enrollment course will receive college credit, but the course is designed as a no-lose proposition. Students are evaluated on their work in the fall semester, and they only enroll for the spring UT course if they meet a standard for college success. This is one way OnRamps reaches a more diverse population. Students who might not otherwise have considered college can measure their abilities in this course and perhaps come to see that they can succeed in college.

In the OnRamps model, the UT Faculty Lead designs the curriculum for the year-long high school course. All of the learning materials and assessments are created by the Faculty Lead and shared with partner teachers through the university’s course management system (Canvas). Teachers attend a two-week professional development in the summer and additional PD days in both the fall and spring. They are charged with implementing the curriculum in their classrooms, in close collaboration with the Faculty Lead.

The UT equivalent for the OnRamps Geoscience class is a 3-credit non-majors course called Earth, Wind, and Fire. The syllabus strongly matches a standard environmental geology course. The pedagogies we use are peer instruction and inquiry. Students’ college grade is based on unit tests, concept sketches, reading responses, and labs. College assignments in the fall are scaffolded to build college thinking skills. The course will culminate in the spring with a large research project in environmental geology.

While we limited the pilot year to just 11 classrooms, we will be recruiting teachers and districts this year to add the course in 2016. The focus will be in high-need school districts.