Design for Maximum Impact

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 catalyzing institutional change.

The success of any change effort depends greatly on the planning that goes into it before any of the activities begin.

Understand the Problem in Context

Change will play out differently at different institutions and for different programs and courses. To be able to adapt InTeGrate models, resources, and tools to support a desired change in a particular context, it is important to first understand the current institutional culture, program context, and existing resources. These can then be used to identify factors that are likely to support or inhibit change. It is particularly effective to align the desired change with existing institutional goals and to situate a new project in such a way that it enhances, rather than competes with other efforts on campus. In this way the project can become part of a larger body of work engaging faculty, staff and administration.

Shippensburg University
The Shippensburg team leveraged a growing trend toward sustainability on campus and cultivated opportunities afforded by involving co-curricular activities.
Wittenberg University
The Wittenberg team dovetailed their project into existing campus sustainability initiatives.
Savannah State University
The Savannah team used awareness of Environmental Justice issues associated with coastal risk and hazards to facilitate a collaborative campus community seeking to evaluate and manage risk associated with inhabiting the coast.

It is often useful to collect information on about the existing situatation to better understand what change is needed as well as what will best motivate and enable that change. In addition to providing essential information, this activity can serves to build buy-in for the project, help to set priorities, and increase the projects' credibility with important constituent groups. The strongest projects involve collaborations across traditional boundaries and account for barriers and sources of resistance to change that may be present.

Wittenberg University
The Wittenberg team developed an Engaged Learning Audit to assess institutional strengths through a query of departments.
University of Illinois - Chicago
The UIC team conducted a faculty survey which determined that faculty wanted to focus on attracting well-prepared students, improving competencies, and preparing students for the workforce.
Gustavus Adolphus College
The Gustavus team distributed the Yale Climate Communication Survey to all their faculty across campus before starting their project, which helped them gauge interest and recruit for the project.

With a strong understanding of institutional context and specific needs the leadership team is well positioned to develop a strategy to move toward the projects goals. Useful concepts to keep in mind are

  • scope -- are the first steps manageable but big enough to make a difference?
  • key players - who needs to be involved to make change happen and sustain?
  • motivation -- why will people participate? what is in it for them?
  • success - how will you know if you are successful?
Mercer University
Mercer offered informational webinars, only one faculty attended. Most faculty participants joined because of one-on-one discussions of discipline, research, and/or teaching interests, or from adjunct science faculty workshops.
Wittenberg University
Wittenberg increased student sustainability literacy through the implementation of InTeGrate sustainability modules, the development of sustainability curriculum for the First Year Seminar, and creating curricular linkages with co-curricular and community partners.

Develop a Beginning Strategy

A strong leadership team can monitor progress toward meeting jointly developed and well articulated goals. A leadership team can also bring together leaders from multiple disciplines or networks to extend the reach of the project. Thus, identifying a small, core leadership team that shares a common vision for the project and its rational is a strong initial step.

California State University - Chico
Chico formed an interdisciplinary team with faculty from Geological & Environmental Science, Biology, Agriculture, Economics, History, Comparative Religion and Geography.
Grand Valley State University and University of Texas - El Paso
Both GVSU and UTEP had leadership teams that incorporated faculty members from nearby community colleges that were going to play large roles in the work of the program models.

It is often essential for project success to inform and gain support from department Chairs, higher administration, and other stakeholders such as State Agencies and employers. Face-to-face meetings where goals are articulated and refined if necessary are often essential to foster these relationships. The most effective teams are flexible, can quickly respond to change, are diverse, and have strong commitments to seeing the project to completion. Successful teams also understand the incentives that will help them create change - money for student or faculty participation, credit for students participating in some activities, release time for faculty, social capital on campus, etc.

California State University - Chico
The interdisciplinary team at Chico was able to provide each other with new perspectives on the content and pedagogical strategies that they implemented together. Also, the range of faculty rank among those involved facilitated mentoring that sometimes led to teaching evaluation letters that junior faculty members could place in their promotion files.
Washington State Colleges and Universities
The Washington team developed a close working relationship with Washington's Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and other key stakeholders as part of developing a proposed pathway to improving science learning and Earth literacy for all students in the state.
University of Illinois - Chicago
The UIC team routinely help meetings with the Chancellor of the University, the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Science, the Office of Career Services, and the Teaching and Learning Center as a way of building connections and buy-in and to provide new opportunities for their students.

Establish a Plan for Course Corrections

Well organized projects have data flows and metrics in place to determine if they are moving toward their goals. The nature of the data collected and methods of analysis must support evaluation of the goals. It is essential to collect and synthesize this information early in the project so that data can drive refinement of the program. Many institutions used the Geoscience Literacy exam and essays, the InTeGrate Attitude Instrument, faculty reflections, and the InTeGrate faculty survey for assessment and evaluation of their projects.

California State University - Chico
The CSU team used a variety of assessments to measure student learning in a variety of geoscience and non-geoscience classes.
Stanford Unviersity
The Stanford team designed and conducted student and faculty interviews to support the evaluation of their project.

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