GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 154-6
Presentation Time: 3:00 PM


LAYOU, Karen M., School of Math, Science and Engineering, Reynolds Community College, PO Box 85622, PRC, Richmond, VA 23285

One aim of the SAGE 2YC Change Agents project was to broaden participation in the geosciences. Multiple barriers may discourage underrepresented minorities and women to consider coursework and careers in geoscience. Prior research shows students perceive geology as an easy science with low prestige, which may factor into not exploring geology as a first-choice science career option. Students are likely to enroll in geology courses without a sense of the diverse employment options within geoscience and what types of salaries these jobs pay. Students may lack visible mentors, not having encountered other scientists who look like them. Many students have not interacted with professional geoscientists in the way they have with other science professionals, like medical doctors. Research suggests that one intervention to address these barriers is to include scientist spotlight assignments throughout a semester-long class to build science identity and familiarize students with careers within a scientific discipline.

The goal of the presented research was to examine whether a single assignment focused on geoscience career options could create positive, short-term shifts in students’ science identities and knowledge and perception of geoscience careers. Seventy students across five sections of physical geology courses completed a scientist spotlight assignment at the midpoint in the semester. The assignment included a review of diverse geoscientists sharing their career path and current research via video and written interviews, and an exploration of AGI resources on geoscience careers and salary data. Pre- and post-assignment surveys revealed positive shifts in student responses. Data show students have a better understanding of geoscience starting salaries. Student perception of geology’s prestige increases, despite geology being more challenging than originally thought. Student assignment comments noted relatable experiences from the scientist profiles, including starting their studies at community colleges. All students, including racial minorities and women, show positive shifts in their ability to imagine themselves as a scientist. A single scientist spotlight assignment can be one of multiple interventions used in a course to lead to improved science identity and geoscience career awareness.