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Astronomy, Physics, Physical Science
2018-2019 Program Review


1) Unit Profile


1.1) Briefly describe the program-level planning unit. What is the unit's purpose and function?

The Astronomy, Physics, and Physical Science instructional planning unit offers a wide range of courses which students can use to satisfy requirements for General Education (GE) and/or transfer to four-year institutions. We offer an A.S. for Transfer degree, and are part of two additional degrees. **GE and transfer requirements: We offer several lecture and/or lab course options for students to satisfy GE requirements in Natural Sciences (ARC GE area IV) as well as transfer requirements in Scientific Inquiry and Quantitative Reasoning (CSU areas B1 and/or B3) or Physical and Biological Sciences (IGETC areas 5A and/or 5C). These courses are: - ASTR: 300 (Intro to Astronomy), 310 (The Solar System), 320 (Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmology), 330 (Introduction to Astrobiology), 400 (Astronomy Laboratory), ASTR (Honors Astronomy: Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmology lecture/lab) - PS: 300 (Introduction to Physical Science), 301 (Physical Science Laboratory) - PHYS: 310 (Conceptual Physics), 311 (Basic Physics), 312 (Conceptual Physics Laboratory), 350 (General Physics lecture/lab), 360 (General Physics lecture/lab), 410 (Mechanics of Solids and Fluids) **Algebra/Trigonometry-Based Physics sequence (PHYS 350, 360): In this sequence, one or both semesters are required of many life science majors, including most pre-health fields. Entry into this sequence has a prerequisite of MATH 330 or 373. **Calculus-Based Physics for Scientists and Engineers sequence (PHYS 410, 421, 431): One, two, or three semesters of this sequence are required for students majoring in computer science, engineering, math, or one of the physical sciences. MATH 400 is the prerequisite for PHYS 410, which, along with MATH 401 is the prerequisite for both PHYS 421 and 431. **Degrees Our unit offers a Physics A.S. for Transfer Degree, and we share in offering the Physical Science/Mathematics Degree and the General Science Degree.

1.2) How does the unit contribute to achievement of the mission of American River College?

The Astronomy, Physics, and Physical Science instructional planning unit helps American River College achieve its mission in several ways, including the following: - To place students first in providing an academically rich, inclusive environment: We offer a wide variety of courses that can be taken by students of nearly any major to meet ARC GE requirements, as well as CSU and IGETC transfer requirements. Students’ scheduling options are increased by our offering both ASTR 300 and PHYS 310 online, and by offering PHYS 350 as hybrid online/in-person. In addition, we provide foundational courses for many STEM majors. Critical thinking and learning are integral processes in each of our courses, where we help students achieve success in conceptual understanding, mathematically focused problem solving, and/or practical applications in the laboratory. Finally, in promoting scientific literacy through our courses, we promote responsible participation in the community. - To help serve the greater Sacramento region: The Physics A.S. for Transfer Degree in our unit provides students with a clear pathway to a physics degree from CSU. The two degrees our unit shares in, the Physical Science/Mathematics Degree and the General Science Degree, each provide students with a strong foundation for transfer to a four-year university and continued studies in upper-division engineering, mathematics, or science. These degrees ultimately help students to achieve their career, academic, and personal goals.

2) Assessment and Analysis


The program review process asks units to reflect on the progress they've made towards achieving the goals they identified in each of the Annual Unit Plans they submitted since their last Program Review. Follow this link to access your previous EMP submissions. For assistance accessing the EMP system, please contact Mary Goodall at GoodalM@arc.losrios.edu or (916) 484-4535.

2.1) Consider the progress that has been made towards the unit's objectives over the last six years. Based on how the unit intended to measure progress towards achieving these objectives, did the unit's prior planned action steps (last six years of annual unit plans) result in the intended effect or the goal(s) being achieved?

**Many of the unit's planned actions did result in the intended effects or goals being achieved: - Many of laboratory equipment items have been purchased, either as new technology, or to replace outdated or broken equipment. - We have participated in many professional development activities such as AAPT (American Association of Physics Teachers) conferences, and the Physics Lecture Series here on campus. - Community and campus outreach have occurred through the Physics and Astronomy club, for example. - Ilkka Koskelo was hired to replace Brooke Haag after she resigned; Brooke Haag was hired to replace the retired Charles Hunt. - We were given a nearby office for Ilkka Koskelo. - A new honors astronomy course, ASTR 481: Honors Stars, Galaxies and Cosmology, was created. - Room 420 (shared with other science disciplines) was remodeled. **Some of our planned actions are still in progress: - We continuously strive to keep our lab equipment up to date. - The new STEM building will provide many classroom improvements, and an additional classroom, which is a step toward increasing our class section offerings. - We are now in the hiring process for a new full-time physics/astronomy faculty position. **Some of the unit's planned actions/goals have not yet been achieved: - An astronomy observatory/dome is still needed for use in night labs, to allow for permanent mounting of telescope(s). This will improve productivity of more complex tasks, especially in honors ASTR 481. - We still need office space for our new full-time faculty member beginning fall 2019, and for our part-time faculty members.

In the following program-level metrics, a green-yellow-red light icon provides a quick sense of how a particular data set's values relate to an established threshold (click '+' for details).

The following data sets may be useful in promoting and informing departmental dialogue, planning, decision making, and resource allocation.

The two data sets show 5 years of fall or spring duplicated enrollment, disaggregated by gender and ethnicity. Note that ARC's data-on-demand tool will soon provide considerably more sophisticated ways of viewing and analyzing your planning unit's headcount and enrollment trends.

Green
current fall/spring semester enrollment is equal to or exceeds the prior year's fall/spring enrollment.
Yellow
current fall/spring semester enrollment reflects a decline of less than 10% from the prior year's fall/spring enrollment.
Red
current fall/spring semester enrollment reflects a decline of 10% or more from the prior year's fall/spring enrollment.

The two data sets show 5 years of fall or spring productivity (WSCH per FTEF: the enrollment activity for which we receive funding divided by the cost of instruction). Note that ARC's data-on-demand tool will soon provide considerably more sophisticated ways of viewing and analyzing your planning unit's productivity trends.

Green
current fall/spring semester productivity is equal to or exceeds the prior year's fall/spring productivity.
Yellow
current fall/spring semester productivity reflects a decline of less than 10% from the prior year's fall/spring productivity.
Red
current fall/spring semester productivity reflects a decline of 10% or more from the prior year's fall/spring productivity.

Shows green-yellow-red indicators for each race/ethnicity to reflect the extent to which any given group's three year average grade metrics are disproportionately impacted, as defined by the State Chancellor's Office (click the report link for details). Note that ARC's data-on-demand tool can provide some additional insights in this area, including representativeness, grades and awards by gender and race/ethnicity.

Green
No measurable DI — All courses’ rates exceed the disproportionate impact threshold for a given racial/ethnic group by at least three percentage points.
Yellow (formerly, “- - “ in previous versions or cycles)
Insufficient data available — Monitoring recommended. DI may or may not or exist for one or more racial/ethnic groups, in one or more courses, but too little data is available to be certain (cell sizes < 10).
Light-Red (formerly yellow in previous versions or cycles)
Potential DI—Monitoring or Action recommended. The rate of one or more racial/ethnic groups, in one or more courses, is near (by less than 3 points) the DI threshold.
Red
Clear DI—Action recommended. The rate of one or more racial/ethnic groups, in one or more courses, is at or below the DI threshold.

Department Set Standards

Shows course success rates (# of A, B, C, Cr, and P grades expressed as a % of total grade notations) compared to lower and upper thresholds. Thresholds are derived using a 95% confidence interval (click the report link for details). The lower threshold is referred to as the Department Set Standard. The upper threshold is referred to as the Stretch Goal.

Green
Most recent academic year exceeds the upper threshold
Yellow
Most recent academic year falls between the lower and upper threshold
Red
Most recent academic year falls below the lower threshold
Email Standard Data Set link

In addition to reflecting on the metrics shown above, it may prove useful to analyze other program-level data to assess the effectiveness of your unit. For instructional units, ARC’s Data on demand system can be used to provide program and course level information regarding equitable outcomes, such as program access or enrollment, successful course completion, and degree or certificate achievement (up to 30+ demographic or course filters are available).

You might also consider pursuing other lines of inquiry appropriate to your unit type (instructional, student support, institutional/administrative support). Refer to the Program Review Inquiry Guide for specific lines of inquiry.

2.2) What were the findings? Please identify program strengths, opportunities, challenges, equity gaps, influencing factors (e.g., program environment), data limitations, areas for further research, and/or other items of interest.

**Enrollment: - Hispanic/Latino students represent about 27% of the ARC student body, and 24% of astronomy students (small equity gap), but only 17% of physics students (larger equity gap). - African American students represent about 9% of the ARC student body, and 5 to 10% of astronomy students, and 4 to 7% of physics students. These equity gap sizes vary from large, to none at all, depending on the semester. - Asian students represent 10% of ARC's student population, only 6% of astronomy students (large gap), but 18% of physics students. - Our enrollment data set does not show a large gender gap in physics or astronomy. However, we know by experience that there relatively very few women in our calculus-based physics series. To verify this, it would be beneficial to have the data for each individual course. This would allow us to focus on the classes responsible for equity and/or gender gaps. **Productivity - The overall productivity for physics has stayed close to the average of 491, with an average deviation of about 17. - The overall productivity for astronomy has decreased overall, with an average of about 476, but an average deviation of 47. The past few years, the productivity has hovered around 450. This slight decrease is primarily because we discontinued the large-auditorium lecture format (~85 students) for ASTR 300 (Introduction to Astronomy), in favor of smaller lectures (~32 students), in order to improve student participation, success, and retention. Another reason for the decrease is the introduction of honors astronomy, ASTR 481, which has a smaller enrollment capacity (20) than the typical astronomy lecture course. In addition, the on-campus astronomy lectures have a limit of 32 students, so for these classes, the maximum productivity is 480. - Our online PHYS 310 and ASTR 300 courses always fill quickly, and so contribute positively to our productivity. It would be helpful to see data comparing productivity for individual courses, and for on-campus courses compared to online courses. **Disproportionate Impact: - Course success rates by gender: Success rates are similar for males and females in each physics course. - Course success rates by race: Success rates are disproportionately low for African-American and Hispanic/Latino students in PHYS 410. - Looking at all physics courses combined, African-American and Hispanic/Latino student groups are each disproportionately impacted. - When comparing by gender within race for African-American and Hispanic/Latino students, it is clearly the male students who are disproportionately impacted. **Department Set Standards: In 2017-18, each of our courses met or exceeded the department set standards (of courses offered each of the previous 3 years). **Grading Variability in PHYS 310, 350, and 410: Grading variability by instructor (fall 2014 - fall 2017) is described as follows: *PHYS 310 (comparing 5 FT and 2 PT instructors): - Success rates (A,B,C grades) vary from 54% to 91% - Mastery rates (A,B grades) vary from 31% to 87% *PHYS 350 (comparing 6 FT and 4 PT instructors): - Success rates (A,B,C grades) vary from 52% to 81% - Mastery rates (A,B grades) vary from 36% to 72% *PHYS 410 (comparing 5 FT and 2 PT instructors): - Success rates (A,B,C grades) vary from 59% to 83% - Mastery rates (A,B grades) vary from 41% to 64%

3) Reflection and Dialog


3.1) Discuss how the findings relate to the unit's effectiveness. What did your unit learn from the analysis and how might the relevant findings inform future action?

**Enrollment: - Our unit is not as effective as we would like to be in attracting Hispanic/Latino or African American students, particularly in physics, and to a lesser degree in astronomy. Similarly, we are not effective enough in attracting Asian students to our astronomy courses, or in attracting female students to our calculus-based physics series. - We would like to find ways to reduce the equity gaps for these students, so as to provide a more equitable experience to the ARC community. **Productivity: The productivity in physics is stable. The drop in productivity for astronomy is attributable to program changes which have contributed to better student success, and is therefore not a cause for concern. **Disproportionate Impact: We have learned that our unit is not as effective as we should be in helping African-American and Hispanic/Latino students succeed in our physics courses, and in particular, in PHYS 410, which is a “gatekeeper” course that keeps these students from being able to pursue physics, chemistry, engineering, or computer science degrees. We would like to find ways to address this inequity and help these student groups succeed, particularly in PHYS 410. **Department Set Standards: Our unit has been effective in meeting or exceeding the department set standards in all courses. **Grading Variability in PHYS 310, 350, and 410: We have found that there are vast differences in how instructors assign final grades in PHYS 310, 350 and 410. We realize that we need more uniformity in grading practices among our department members. This is especially important for PHYS 350 and 410, as each of these two courses is the first course in a series, and lays the foundation for success in the subsequent course(s). Students need to be required to gain a certain level of mastery in the first course of a series, so that they are prepared for success in the subsequent course(s) in that series. Alternately, students who have gained the needed level of mastery should be allowed to move on to the next course in the series.

3.2) What is the unit's ideal future and why is it desirable to ARC? How will the unit's aspirations support accomplishment of the mission, improve institutional effectiveness, and/or increase academic quality?

**Enrollment: Ideally, we would like the population of physics and astronomy students to better mirror the overall population of ARC. This would support the college mission of equity-minded education. **Disproportionate Impact: Ideally, we would like to eliminate this disproportionate impact on African-American and Hispanic/Latino students in physics, particularly PHYS 410. This would help promote the inclusive environment called for in ARC’s mission. **Department Set Standards: We would like to continue to meet our department set standards in all courses. **Grading Variability in PHYS 310, 350, and 410: Ideally, we would like a smaller variability between instructors in how final grades are determined for these three courses, starting with PHYS 350 and 410. ARC’s institutional effectiveness would be improved if all students who are gaining sufficient mastery in these courses are allowed to progress; and if students who are not mastering the material in these courses are required to do so before moving on, so they will be able to succeed in their subsequent classes.

4) Strategic Enhancement


4.1) Identify/define one or more program-level objectives which enhance the unit's effectiveness. What does your unit intend to do to work towards its ideal future? How will success be measured?

**Enrollment; Disproportionate Impact: To increase enrollment of underrepresented groups in all of our courses, and to increase success of these students (i.e., reduce disproportionate impact on these students), especially in PHYS 410, it is important that we reach out to and connect with these students, so they are familiar with our courses and our faculty members. When these students take our courses, we want to take steps to make sure they feel supported, and that they belong, especially in the more difficult courses, like PHYS 410, where group work and networking are crucial to success. To accomplish these goals, we will begin with active outreach to learning communities on campus (such as the TRiO STEM program), and 1.1 To measure success, we will compare our enrollment and disproportionate impact numbers over the next five years to that of the last five years. **Grading Variability in PHYS 310, 350, and 410: We would like to review and/or revise our course outlines, including the SLOs, starting with PHYS 350 and 410. We would also like to discuss and create as a department a set of best practices and standards for some courses, again, starting with PHYS 350 and 410. We will look for opportunities to support and coordinate with part-time faculty teaching these courses. To measure success, we will compare our grading variability numbers over the next five years to that of the last five years.

4.2) How will the unit's intended enhancements support ARC's commitment to social justice and equity?

**Enrollment: Increasing the enrollment numbers of students from underrepresented groups would give these students the same educational opportunities that other groups already have. This is a necessary step to achieve equity-minded education in an inclusive environment. **Disproportionate Impact: Reducing disproportionate impact on African-American and Hispanic/Latino students in physics, particularly PHYS 410, would support ARC’s commitment to social justice and equity by focusing on equity-minded education, helping give all of our students the opportunity for equal outcomes, regardless of race. **Grading Variability in PHYS 310, 350, and 410: Reducing grading variability in PHYS 310, 350, and 410 would support ARC’s commitment to social justice and equity by focusing on equity-minded education, helping give all of our students the opportunity for equal outcomes, independent of the instructor taken for a course.