Jolie Stepaniak presented today on how to teach STEM to first generation college students. Jolie did indicate that while some of the specifics in the presentation were just about the sciences, the strategies presented could generalize to any discipline. The talk could have been titled “How to Teach [Insert Discipline] to first generation college students,” she quipped. Her presentation was based on the similarly titled book by Gail Horowitz.
Only 10% of first generation college students complete a bachelors degree withing 6 years of starting their higher education. While many of the reasons for this are beyond the control of a classroom teacher acting alone there is one effective set of interventions a classroom teacher can use. They can help students learn to study using skills appropriate to that discipline. Rather than have a College 101-like course, have teachers give appropriate learning strategies in the discipline. A metaphor given was that if you needed to read a knitting diagram you would more likely ask a knitter than a reading teacher.
A series of over 20 specific strategies followed. For instance teachers could tell students how to study in a particular course. Diagramming relationships between biological systems might be a better strategy in one class, while using flashcards to learn names of parts might be a better strategy in some lab classes. Teachers could explicitly tell students which topics are most important in the field and for subsequent courses. Teachers should give students frequent feedback and give opportunities for low stakes participation. Dr. Stepaniak noted that we probably all did most of this. I think that all of us probably could find something new in the list.
A core takeaway from this is that the Horowitz book is worth reading. Full-time teachers who purchase the book would be able to receive reimbursement through the Professional Improvement Fund at the end of the academic year. The PowerPoint from today’s session is attached.