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Broadening Participation – Recruiting and Retaining Outstanding Scientists in the Botanical Sciences. Organized by Anna K. Monfils and Ann K. Sakai BSA Human Diversity Committee. Sponsors. iDigBio Ecology Section of Botanical Society of America

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broadening participation recruiting and retaining outstanding scientists in the botanical sciences

Broadening Participation – Recruiting and Retaining Outstanding Scientists in the Botanical Sciences

Organized by Anna K. Monfils and Ann K. Sakai

BSA Human Diversity Committee

sponsors
Sponsors
  • iDigBio
  • Ecology Section of Botanical Society of America
  • Teaching Section of Botanical Society of America
  • American Society of Plant Taxonomy/Systematics Section of Botanical Society of America
slide3

Increasing Retention of Underrepresented Groups in Biology: The Role of the Graduate Student Teaching Assistant

Chris O’Neal

David Geffen School of Medicine UCLA

tas and stem student retention
TAs and STEM Student Retention
  • Talking About Leaving: Why Undergraduates Leave the Sciences (Seymour & Hewitt, 1997)
    • Interviews and focus groups with students at seven institutions
  • Of the 23 factors found to contribute to students’switching decisions, #22 was:

“Poor teaching, lab or recitation support by TAs”

why look at the ta as a factor in science retention
Why Look at the TA as aFactor in Science Retention?
  • In university science gateway courses, TAs have more contact hours with students than faculty do.
  • E.g., in U-M’s large science gateway courses, TAs account for between 52% and 85% of student contact hours.
u m research
U-M Research

Research Question

How do undergraduates describe the influence of TAs on their plans for a major?

Hypotheses

  • Students who describe the TA as decreasing their interest in science are more likely to plan to leave science.

• Switchers and Stayers differ in how they describe their TAs’ teaching behaviors.

survey questions
Survey Questions
  • Before the fall term, I planned to major in science, engineering or math.
  • As of NOW, I plan to major in science, engineering or math.

* Survey respondents were asked to rate their agreement with the above statements on a 5-point scale of Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree.

survey questions1
Survey Questions
  • How have the following factors influenced your choice of major?

* Survey respondents asked to rate the above factors on a 3-point scale from Decreased Interest in a Science Major to Increased Interest in a Science Major.

  • Professor
  • TA
  • Lecture climate
  • Lab climate
  • Course grade
  • Math grades
  • Learning about a career or major outside of science
  • Other
respondents
Respondents
  • 3,655 students enrolled in Biology, Chem, & Physics

• 2,669 responded to survey (73%)

  • 2,840 of those enrolled were first- and second-year students
    • 1,952 first- and second-year students responded (69%)
    • 47% of these first- and second-year students also provided qualitative comments
additional information
Additional Information
  • Student survey respondents were matched with information from the registrar on:
    • Race
    • Gender
    • Final Course Grade
  • End-of-term course evaluation data were collected on 113 TAs, teaching 191 sections.
findings from the quantitative analysis
Findings From the Quantitative Analysis

Of the first- and second-year students who entered these courses:

  • 1,588 (85.2%) maintained their original plan to major in science
  • 42 (2.3%) became more interested in science
  • 220 (11.8%) became less interested in a science major
    • Of those who became less interested, more than half had a course grade of 3.0 or better.
quantitative analysis methodology
Quantitative Analysis Methodology

We performed a multiple linear regression, with TAs as the unit of analysis (% of TA’s students who self-identified as Stayers or Switchers).

statistically significant findings
Statistically SignificantFindings
  • Factors associated with retention
    • Lab climate
    • Course grade
    • Math grade
    • Learning about careers
  • Factors associated with attrition
    • Lab climate
role of the ta in retention and attrition
Role of the TA in Retention and Attrition
  • Neither TA nor Professor directly implicated in students’ decisions.
  • Lab climate is the only factor associated with both retention and attrition.
  • Do students see TAs as influencing the lab climate?
qualitative exercise if time
Qualitative Exercise (if time)
  • In your pairs:
    • How do students define lab climate?
    • How might the TA’s role in the lab climate affect students’ decisions to stay in or leave science?
slide16

How do Students Describe Lab Climate?

  • Not necessarily like we did!
  • Student comments focused on:
    • How welcoming and excited the TA was
    • Transparency of expectations
    • Transparency of possibilities
slide17

How do Students Describe Lab Climate?

  • Student comments focused on:
    • How welcoming and excited the TA was

“The GSI’s ability to make the lab atmosphere fun … definitely made doing the labs a lot easier. Furthermore, his cool attitude made it a lot easier to listen to what needed to be done, making the learning process more effective.… [I]t increased my interest in doing a science major.” (Asian-American male sophomore, grade=A)

slide18

How do Students Describe Lab Climate?

  • Student comments focused on:
    • How welcoming and excited the TA was

“My GSI yelled at people, yet wouldn’t help them fix what was wrong. She wasn’t very patient either.” (female first-year student, race unknown, grade=A)

slide19

How do Students Describe Lab Climate?

  • Student comments focused on:
    • Transparency of expectations

“[My GSI] always was fair in grading and calm in mood.” (Hispanic female first-year student, grade=B)

slide20

How do Students Describe Lab Climate?

  • Student comments focused on:
    • Transparency of expectations

[The GSI should] explain the grading system more clearly. Science classes at the University of Michigan are frustrating enough without knowing how your grades are figured. (white male sophomore, grade=A-)

slide21

How do Students Describe Lab Climate?

  • Student comments focused on:
    • Transparency of possibilities

My [GSI] increased my interest in pursuing a science major because she was continually talking about how she chose her career path and always trying to get us involved in research opportunities. (white female sophomore, grade=A)

slide22

How do Students Describe Lab Climate?

  • Student comments focused on:
    • Transparency of possibilities

Perhaps if [my GSI] had explained her research or involvement here at Michigan I could have seen what was in store for [my] future, but she didn’t explain that to us. (Hispanic male sophomore, grade=A-)

recommendations for ta training
Recommendations for TA Training

Train TAs to:

  • Understand science student retention issues
  • Discuss science research opportunities and careers with students
  • Give clear explanations and responses to questions
  • Use explicit grading and assessment practices
  • Build rapport with all students