Engage Students in Active Learning

This page was developed as a synthesis of lessons learned by participants in InTeGrate program models and is part of an extended set of InTeGrate resources on managing curricular reform.

Managing Curriculum Reform

Why Focus on Sustainability?
Personal and collective actions are needed to ensure the sustainable use of our natural resources and environmental systems—land, air, and water—in an ethical and responsible manner. On this page, InTeGrate lays out the rationale for why undergraduate education should include a focus on Sustainability and Earth-centered societal issues.

Teach Earth Across the Curriculum
Several of the 16 InTeGrate program models sought to spread the teaching of Earth-related material widely through their undergraduate curricula. This suite of pages synthesizes the lessons they learned about how to do that.

Embed Sustainability in your Program
Issues such as balancing energy alternatives with environmental toxification, climate change, and provisioning a growing human population while maintaining natural resources have fundamental geoscience components. This set of pages makes the case that more geoscience programs should include learning about Sustainability as well as different ways that can be accomplished.


Search all InTeGrate Curriculum Reform Resources

Related: Pedagogy in Action »

The Pedagogy in Action portal provides What, Why, and How information on more than 60 pedagogic methods combined with teaching activities across many disciplines that show how to use that each pedagogy in the classroom.

Study of the Earth can be relevant and exciting to students no matter what their major, which can be used to introduce students to how disciplines in geoscience can be used to understand and address sustainability issues. Active learning techniques are a great way of getting students to engage in their learning about sustainability and apply their work to careers in STEM because students are given a framework to investigate questions that require gathering and synthesizing information from a variety of sources. These pedagogical approaches can also be scaled and modified to fit contexts from a single class period to a whole-course term project and can also be made use of in co- and extracurricular settings.

Train Faculty in Active Learning

A strength of the InTeGrate project is that it provides a wealth of teaching materials that all use high-impact teaching methods, especially those involving active learning. Most faculty members have no formal pedagogy training and may not have time to learn to develop teaching materials that use more active learning. Effectively engaging students in learning about the Earth is less likely, however, if the pedagogy used is not engaging. The InTeGrate-developed materials provide a solid foundation for teaching Earth across the curriculum, enabling faculty to participate easily and adopt materials. It should be highlighted to the faculty that the InTeGrate materials can be adapted to suit their teaching style and situation, but we have found that having high-quality materials to build from has been extremely valuable. Essay: Modeling Interdisciplinarity »

Stanford University
Stanford graduate students and postdocs engaged in deliberate professional development opportunity around active pedagogy before being sent to teach at two-year institutions.
Gustavus Adolphus College
The cross-disciplinary pairs at GAC engaged in conversations about pedagogy as well as content, with both science and non-science faculty members benefiting from discussions about how students learn in different disciplines.
California State University - Chico
At Chico, the team established Faculty Learning Community goals where team members observed each others' classes, debriefed together afterwards and collaborated to make modifications to materials and instruction to best suit the courses and instructors' style.

Use Active Learning Pedagogies

Service Learning

Service learning gets students out of the classroom and into the real world to engage in community service work related to their course.

Savannah State University
The Savannah program team developed a whole series of service learning projects rather than a single experience in a particular class.
Shippensburg University
The Shippensburg team infused service learning into many of their campus-wide activities outside of the classroom.

InTeGrate: Service Learning »

Experiential Learning

Partnering with institutional and local agencies, students can gain professional "on the job" experiences, typically within a community of practitioners.

Wittenberg University
Two Wittenberg team members took their introductory environmental science class to Antioch College to meet with faculty there to learn land management strategies that promote biodiversity and soil health before working on a landscape research and restoration project at George Rogers Clark Park.
Shippensburg University
The Shippensburg project conducted joint faculty-student research projects and student internship experiences focused on sustainability then surveyed the students about their experiences.

Place-based learning

Because we often know and care about our own local places more than some "other" geographic setting, place-based learning often can energize people to engage locally. Field trips can be an effective way to engage people in understanding their environments and communities.

University of South Dakota
The USD project was focused on the Missouri River. Many of the faculty members took their students on field trips to the Missouri River including touring one of the hydroelectric dams, taking water quality samples on a tributary of the Missouri River, visiting a Native American reservation along the river, and going onto the river.
Grand Valley State University
As a part of strengthening ties with local two-year colleges, the GVSU team co-led two two-day field trips. Trips were planned and co-led to Paleozoic strata of the Illinois Basin and the Cincinnati Arch and to the Precambrian metamorphic rocks of the Marquette syncline.

InTeGrate: Teaching with Local Examples and Data »

Problem-Based Learning and Student Research

Providing specific problems from real-world environments can give students insight into the world of science research. These experiences allow students to discover knowledge themselves, regardless of whether the professor knows "the answer" or not and often generates new research questions either way.

Shippensburg University
The Shippensburg project conducted joint faculty-student research projects and student internship experiences focused on sustainability then surveyed the students about their experiences.
Wittenberg University
Several courses at Wittenberg involved student research projects in collaboration with local partners who helped frame the nature of the project. Projects involved analyzing authentic data to better understand grand challenges in sustainability and students specifically reflected on the needs of collaborating partners.

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