Improving Teaching and Learning

Part of the InTeGrate Middle Tennessee State University Program Model

Courses and Materials Involved in the Project »

Impact on Teaching and Learning

During 2015-2016, the MTSU program model collected anecdotal evidence that InTeGrate had a substantial impact on four courses.

Impact 1: Development of Service Learning and Writing in a General Studies Introductory Earth Science Course

The MTSU program model partnered with the MTSU Stormwater Program to bring service learning to two sections (1 Spring and 1 Fall) of a general studies introductory Earth Science course and included a writing assignment as part of the project. Service learning is often regarded as a course improvement because many students find it meaningful to connect to real world situations, and writing assignments are often regarded as a course improvement because undergraduates improve their writing skills by practicing writing. Writing ability is near the top of many lists of skills sought by employers.

During Spring 2016, the Stormwater Program hosted two 50-minute campus clean ups for 72 introductory Earth Science undergraduates and a few students from Honors Physical Science and American Public Policy. The campus clean ups were held at the same time students were learning Unit 5 ("Hazardous Waste and Love Canal") of the InTeGrate "Freshwater Resources and Environmental Justice" module. The clean ups led to a class discussion about health, personal freedom, regulation, and management of non-compliance because the most commonly-collected items were tobacco-related (mostly cigarette butts) even though MTSU was a tobacco-free campus at the time. After completing the clean ups and a rock weathering exercise at a nearby cemetery, the introductory Earth Science students were asked to either write (a) a 2-page mock sustainability grant proposal or (b) a 2-page mock undergraduate rock weathering research proposal, and 71 of 75 chose sustainability. Also, the responses of 54 undergraduates to a clicker survey indicated that 76% thought the campus clean ups should continue and only 13% thought they should not. (The rest abstained.) During the Fall 2016 enactment of the cleanup and module pairing, an additional writing option was offered. Students could create a watershed environmental education brochure, and a few did, although most chose to write a sustainability proposal.

Impact 2: Use of a Two-week Introductory Earth Science Module in a Social Science Course

The InTeGrate "Humans' Dependence on Earth's Mineral Resources" module was used by undergraduates enrolled in an American Public Policy course in the Department of Political Science and International Relations during Spring 2016. This was the first use at MTSU of a two-week natural science module in a non-geography social science class. Political Scientist Lisa Langenbach implemented the module because she believed students would benefit from a deeper understanding of the natural science behind policy issues surrounding mining.

Impact 3: InTeGrate Program Model Leads to the Creation of Educational Brochures in an Upper-level Course

Undergraduates enrolled in the MTSU Geosciences Environmental Issues, Impacts, and Sustainability course completed parts of the InTeGrate "Interactions Between Water, Earth's Surface, and Human Activity" module during Spring 2016. As the summative assessment for the module, students created environmental education brochures describing environmental issues and sustainability within the context of the central Tennessee watershed of their choice. While preparing their brochures, several students communicated with local sustainability professionals.

Supporting Faculty Change

Flexibility was the key to supporting faculty change. InTeGrate was implemented in three distinctly different ways, supporting implementation in more courses than would have been possible with a one-size-fits-all approach. More information on faculty outcomes can be found in this evaluation report. (Acrobat (PDF) 195kB May5 17)

  1. Collaborative preparation involving multiple face-to-face meetings. Three MTSU faculty participated in two brief face-to-face meetings and a half-day Saturday meeting. During these meetings, they shared what they were doing to get ready, and they worked through some of the InTeGrate materials. Abolins also met one-on-one with two faculty members to discuss implementation.
  2. Individual implementation. Two faculty downloaded and implemented InTeGrate modules without much interaction with other involved faculty.
  3. Classroom "take over." Abolins took over the MTSU Geosciences Environmental Issues, Impacts, and Sustainability course for three weeks, implementing parts of one module. Abolins also "took over" one class meeting of the American Public Policy course.