The central focus of our STEP efforts is to increase retention of entering science and engineering students, both freshmen and transfer students. We are taking a comprehensive approach that involves multiple interventions. These activities are being funded by a combination of resources from the STEP grant and from the Dean’s Office in the College of Science. Because College of Engineering students spend most of their first two years taking courses within the College of Science, they are benefiting directly from our course revision efforts, the availability of our undergraduate peer mentors/tutors, and our tracking of student progress in the science gate-keeper courses.
Our specific objectives are:
- Expand and enhance our academic and career advising to entering students.
- Provide professional development workshops for faculty members who teach in our “gate-keeper” courses. These courses will incorporate student learning communities (aka, collaborative learning approaches), such as Peer Led Team Learning (PLTL) and Process-Oriented Guided-Inquiry Learning (POGIL).
- Immerse STEM majors into a comprehensive Learning Community.
To accomplish these objectives requires the establishment of a college-wide Learning Community with participation by students, faculty, college and departmental leaders, staff advisors, and student peer mentors/tutors. Changes/enhancements that we are pursuing for implementation include for each of the above objectives:
Under Objective 1:
- We have opened a College of Science Advising Center (CoSAC), staffed by professional academic and career counselors, including graduate interns. CoSAC is now handling advising and mentoring of almost all incoming freshmen and transfer students who enter the College of Science. This advising is mandatory for all incoming freshmen and strongly recommended for transfers. We are working with the SJSU Administration to place mandatory advising holds on for all transfers. Early transfer admits do receive advising holds at this time This advising is mandatory, and no student can register for classes until a CoSAC advisor approves the course of study. During Year One in the College, each student is transitioned to a permanent faculty advisor in their area of specialty.
- We are instituting the tracking of every new declared major in science or engineering who enrolls in one of our science gate-keeper courses over the next five years. Tracking and any needed advising intervention will occur every semester.
- We are now working closely with the SJSU Career Center so that our students have easy access to career advising, including choosing an appropriate major.
Under Objective 2:
- We have identified the instructors in the large gate-keeper courses who are associated with course GPA’s of 2.2 or lower.
- We are recruiting as many of these faculty members as possible into our Professional Development Program that will help make the courses more successful for students. Undergraduate mentors/tutors will be assigned to these courses to help to institute the Learning Community approach and mentality.
- Our initial course revisions have begun in the Department of Mathematics. Cooperative group learning is being incorporated into Pre-calculus in Fall Semester, 2008. Similar learning community approaches will be added into the Calculus sequence subsequently. The math efforts are being coordinated by Math Professor Mohammed Saleem and Math Chairperson Brad Jackson (see Project Leadership Section for contact information).
- We are partnering with the Alliance for Minority Participation Program (AMP), as well as some other programs within the College to coordinate our efforts.
Under Objective 3:
- Most of our entering students are being funneled into Science 2, a “First Year Experience” course that teaches learning skills and that orients entering freshmen to the resources of the College and the University.
- We are expanding Sci 90T, a Sci 2-type experience for entering, junior transfer, STEM majors.
- We are establishing “welcoming activities” for incoming students with the assistance of our student clubs. Welcoming activities are also built into our Sci 2 and Sci 90T courses.
- We are expanding our departmental, student, study rooms to provide more hours when our student peer mentors/tutors can assist students.
The project is being visited and evaluated each semester by a campus Internal Advisory Committee that is chaired by the Provost.
The project also is being visited and evaluated annually by an External Advisory Committee of three members.
Project success will be monitored primarily by determining the % increase in: passing course grades in targeted courses, enrollment in the next course in the sequence for science and engineering students, increased course enrollment numbers generated by science and engineering majors, and projected graduation rates. Data is being collected and analyzed by PI Dan Walker, Co-PI Maureen Scharberg, and the project staff. Dr. Resa Kelly from Chemistry is our evaluator. She will prepare an independent assessment of these outcomes to share with the National Science Foundation and the Advisory Committees.