Advice for Future Implementations

Part of the InTeGrate University of Illinois Chicago Program Model

Consideration of context:

The University of Illinois at Chicago is both urban located and urban serving. The majority of our students come from the surrounding Chicagoland region, about one-third are first generation college students, and 65% of students identify as non-white. There are high expectations for faculty in terms of both research and teaching responsibilities.

There have been recent and ongoing discussions in our department about increasing our number of majors and demonstrating our importance to the college and university. Within the past year, the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Chancellor of the University have visited the department and discussed among other things the importance of undergraduate education.

Things that worked well that we would do again

Faculty Discussion

Faculty were open to participation and discussion of improving student education and engagement. While we did not implement large scale workshops or regular seminars on the InTeGrate modules, we found that many faculty were open to discussions about teaching content and style. Our most successful collaboration was a small group session that was used to revise an entire course. We provided a supportive environment for a motivated faculty member who was mentally ready for the time and effort revision would take. In other instances faculty liked the main themes and pedagogies of the InTeGrate modules, but wanted to develop something of their own to fit within the scope of their course.

Working with Alumni

Connecting with alumni was one of the most successful aspects of our program. We are fortunate that many of our alumni work locally, making it easy for us to visit them and for them to visit campus. Materials (YouTube videos and powerpoint slides) featuring alumni were well received by faculty and appreciated by students. On campus visits by alumni and local employers were also highlights within the semester that educated students and faculty alike on urban careers in geoscience and the professional geology license.

Support from Outside the Department

Faculty meetings with the Chancellor of the University and the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has helped reinforce ideas about improving undergraduate education. Both were supportive of our current efforts and reiterated the importance of connecting with students and desires to increase enrollment at the University and College level. Many faculty acknowledged that students often discover the geosciences by taking an introductory course and that these courses could be a key component to increasing our number of majors. To help our efforts in undergraduate education, the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences was also able to provide our department with additional financial support for graduate student workers in the fall and summer semesters.

Additionally, we were able to seek out partnerships from the Office of Career Services and the Teaching and Learning Center. Representatives from both organizations came to talk to faculty about engaging students. The Office of Career Services also continues to help us in the classroom by talking with students about career resources and assisting students in the resume writing process.

Strategies for overcoming challenges

Abundance of Material – The amount of material and large units were somewhat overwhelming for faculty. We wanted to focus our implementation on our large enrollment introductory courses that are taught every semester, but often by different faculty. However, because of the constraints in schedule and curriculum that was expected to be covered, it was easiest for our faculty to implement activities in a more piece-wise fashion throughout the semester instead of implementing a whole module.

Introducing New Teaching Strategies – Faculty in our program all felt that student engagement and competence in introductory courses could be improved. Some were ready to adopt and adapt the new teaching strategies associated with the InTeGrate modules, while others were a little more hesitant about implementation and such drastic changes in teaching style. A couple things that we found beneficial were 1) small strategy sessions to discuss implementation, 2) observing a faculty member using InTeGrate material, and 3) identifying motivated graduate students to help adapt material that could be used in lecture and lab.

Things to think about before you start this type of project

From the beginning of the program we found ourselves limited by time. Our project could have been improved if we had projected more realistic estimates for the time needed for implementation, coordination amongst faculty, and reaching out to partners. Moreover, once implementation began and other project goals were in the work, it was difficult to also keep track of data collection and surveying students. Overall, more may have been accomplished with more clear distribution and delegation of activities, instead of having just one program leader.