Making Change Happen
Part of the InTeGrate University of Northern Colorado Program Model
High-Level Project Timeline
Year 1, Fall 2015
- Recruiting visits to high schools and community colleges began.
- In December, a workshop on the development of activities aligned with InTeGrate gave geoscience faculty members an opportunity to develop and share ideas for activities to be implemented in Spring 2016.
- Changes were made to the curriculum of the general education course, Scientific Writing, to incorporate themes of environmental change an sustainability across all assignments.
- Curriculum for a new introductory-level course in Environmental Science was developed and sent to the college curriculum committee for approval.
Year 1, Spring 2016
- Recruiting visits to community colleges and high schools continued.
- An IRB was submitted in early January to obtain approval to collect assessment data on new activities developed for this project.
- Faculty members implemented new InTeGrate-aligned activities in upper-division courses.
- Another section of Scientific Writing with a sustainability theme was offered.
Year 1, Summer 2016
- Several field trips offered prospective students opportunities to get to know geoscience professors.
- Assessments for new upper-division activities were analyzed.
- An introductory-level Environmental Science course (aligned with InTeGrate goals) was offered for the first time.
- STEM faculty participated in the workshop 'Building Diversity Awareness'
- Elements of the sustainability theme were incorporated into other lower division courses.
Key Aspects of the Program
COURSE, LAB, AND ACTIVITY IMPLEMENTATION:
Faculty preparation is a key aspect of success when implementing changes in curricula. New curriculum and curriculum modifications are initiated and driven by individual faculty and teams of faculty. Extensive reflection, considerable energy, and clear examples of successful curriculum changes are a great help to faculty considering new directions. If a respected faculty colleague has already done curriculum changes of the sort proposed for this implementation, that goes a long way toward enabling faculty to see the benefits of the change. Fortunately, we had such a coach on our team.
Few faculty consider the recruiting of new students a central part of their job. However, the increased competition for students, especially those from underrepresented groups, has made this a higher priority in the mind of some faculty. We assigned two of the six faculty working on the project to present their research and explain geoscience careers to area high schools (and other K-12 schools); those same two visited regional community colleges with similar purposes. In the summer, three of the six faculty working on the project led field trips in the state of Colorado that were specifically designed to recruit students to our major programs in the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.
FACULTY PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT:
Recruit faculty who have a scholarly interest in their teaching. Faculty are motivated to continue changes if they can see an impact in student learning, student retention, and student professional development.
Provide faculty opportunities (workshops) to develop new curriculum in collaboration with other faculty. (At the very least, provide opportunity for constructive feedback.)
There were three major components to this work: (1) development of an outreach program to community colleges and local high schools (this includes visits to career and college fairs and informational talks about our program; (2) development or inclusion of societally relevant earth science curriculum in lower and upper division courses; and (3) professional development for faculty in curriculum design and diversity awareness.
As a result of the outreach component of this project, we were able to establish connections with a number of institutions who have invited us to return. An unexpected outcome of this was the development of a formal transfer agreement between Laramie Community College and UNC. A second transfer agreement is currently under development with Western Nebraska Community College. As pressure increases to recruit strong students to UNC across all disciplines, the Earth and Atmospheric Science Department is in a much stronger position now with these new connections. Maintaining these connections and continued recruitment efforts will be part of an annual effort to attract new students.
Faculty have invested considerable effort in the development of new curriculum and assessments, as well as a new course in Environmental Science. In all cases, students demonstrated positive learning gains from these activities. With these new activities embedded into courses, and the Environmental Science course in the catalog as an annual offering, faculty have motivation to continue working to using new curriculum and improving it further. Two of the faculty P. I.s on this project have initiated study abroad sections in Ecuador of Environmental Science lab and Contemporary Field Issues--Ecuador: A microcosm of global environmental change.
The professional development workshop focused on diversity awareness, received a lot of positive feedback from faculty, and there were many who expressed desire to learn about and discuss this topic further in a group setting. It is clear that this is a topic that has been on everyone's mind, but individuals have had few outlets for discussion. We intend to hold similar workshops on an annual basis, open to a broader range of departments, updating with new university data as needed.