Santa MonicaCollege’s Scienceand Research Initiative (SRI) collaborated with the Black Collegians and Adelante programs to target intensive support for introductory chemistrystudents. The resulting Chem Boot Camps have had a significant impact on the success rates of underrepresented students.
Chem boot camps at Santa Monica College were designed as part of a campus-wide effort to address persistent equity gaps in success rates, which were particularly pronounced in this course. The performance gap in introductory chemistry was leading to an access gap in higher-level science courses that require success in the introductory course, and thus was a high-priority metric to address.
To address the declining performance of underrepresented students, Santa Monica College developed intensive Saturday workshops to supplement introductory chemistry lectures targeted at African American and Latino students. The boot camps meet Saturdays throughout the semester for three hours and present rigorous material in a more one-on-one, engaging and collaborative environment than is possible in an ordinary classroom setting.
Boot camps begin with a pre-assessment to test students’ mastery of the concepts to be covered during that day, and students are then grouped in accordance with their pre-assessment scores. This grouping allows students to develop camaraderie amongst each other as well as learn from and teach each other. This leads to a less intimidating environment and allows students to feel more comfortable participating and asking questions.
Material is then presented, beginning with a discussion of the pre-assessment and utilizing instruction and collaborative projects to keep students engaged and working together. Sample PowerPoints, as well as a video of a digital lecture, have been provided below. The material is presented by a variety of introductory chemistry professors throughout the semester, which exposes students to different teaching methods and enables them to develop relationships with multiple professors in the Chemistry department—an important component to student successand retention.
Once the material has been presented, students are then given a post-assessment. Prizes are awarded to the group that is most improved, which instills competition and encourages students within groups help to their peers succeed.
Students who complete the boot camp are automatically admitted into Santa Monica College’s STEM Program, which offers priority registration for select courses, focused counseling, peer mentors, free tutoring, and STEM scholarships.
Data for the chem boot camps show that students not only self-report that it increases their understanding of the course material but also that there are significant improvement in student achievement. Of students who attended, 69% of indicated that the workshops led to a “substantial increase” of their understanding of what is required to be successful in general chemistry, and 96.4% said that that they were “very useful.”
These positive self-reported data are substantiated by higher student success rates: students who attended the workshops had significantly higher success rates (67.5%) than other students in the same sections (41.7%), as well as a higher success rate than students who took the same section the previous year (43.1%).
This program was a 2016 recipient of the John W. Rice Diversity and Equity Award. The Rice Award recognizes California Community College faculty, staff, or programs that have made a significant contribution towards diversity or student equity.
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