A Transdisciplinary Health Field Collaboration Evaluation Model Informs our Approach and Advice for Future Implementations

Part of the InTeGrate Wittenberg University Program Model

Hall et al., 2008 developed a conceptual model that was used to build tools to evaluate transdisciplinary collaborative research initiatives. Viewing this model early during the project improved our conceptual ideas of how to support success. The model is also helpful for describing the evolution of our project from our collaborative readiness to the dynamic supporting activities beyond our original proposal that generated outcomes beyond those we initially proposed.

Collaborative Readiness:

During early project phases, collaborative readiness is important to supporting high quality project development (Hall et al., 2008). Several factors shape collaborative readiness including 1) a priori-environmental conditions that support or pose barriers to cross-departmental barriers. This could include things such as proximity to collaborators and supporting resources from the institution and/or bureaucratic frameworks, 2) intrapersonal characteristics (e.g. leadership qualities, personal dynamics), and 3) interpersonal factors (e.g. size of the group, diversity of disciplines represented, history of collaboration). The Wittenberg effort was highly successful during the early project phases largely due to our high initial collaborative readiness.

In terms of environmental conditions supporting our success, early during the planning process, we identified a meeting time that was convenient for all leadership team members. Additionally, we felt a high degree of institutional support given the wave of curricular innovation underway such as a concurrent planning of new First Year Seminar and preliminary discussions on revising General Education. Intrapersonal characteristics varied among project leadership, but all were respectful of each other and had a shared vision for elevating sustainability in Wittenberg's curriculum. A shared vision, coupled with sharing of proposal drafts between each meeting, aided early meetings. After a few meetings, our roles were better defined with a clear project leader, a clear editor/refiner, and respectful discussion from diverse disciplinary perspectives that identified and challenged ideas as they evolved to better identify ways to implement geoscience-related modules into diverse settings. Interpersonal factors were also ideal. All team leaders had worked with at least 2 other members on institution-level projects (e.g. the President's Climate Commitment, the First Year Experience Seminar Development Effort, the Sustainability Task Force, Environmental Science Program planning discussions) prior to the submission of the grant. The team leader had experience with module development and publication. Additionally, institutional support for sustainability solidified before the project proposal effort through exploration of a potential sustainability major or minor during the creation of the Environmental Science Major at Wittenberg by nearly all members leading this project.

After receiving funding, two participants were unable to implement modules. They had anticipated additional modules would be available to implement beyond the five available during the start of our effort. Additionally, one project leader was funded separately through an InTeGrate materials pilot. As a result of this, we recruited three new participants using the faculty email listserv. All team leaders who implemented and two of the three recruited participants successfully implemented modules. For several faculty members this required adaptation aligned with the rubric used to create the modules. The faculty member who did not implement had other commitments arise, but did have students consider the content of one of the modules with regards to its implications to their field. Additionally, all six faculty members identified that their courses were either sustainability-related or sustainability-focused as defined per STARS tracking.

Collaborative Capacity:

In the summer before the second academic year of the project, new faculty were recruited into the project to participate in the broadening of sustainability curriculum on campus. Ten Wittenberg faculty and five faculty from nearby schools were recruited and trained in a workshop lead by the four members who were on the original leadership team and one new member who was recruited. Two of the original proposal team faculty who were unable to implement in the first year implemented in this phase of the project as participants. Based on our earlier experiences, particularly addressing module fit, the leadership team anticipated that to have a total of 15 faculty implement, team leaders would also need to implement modules to counteract likely loss of some participants. Even at the proposal stage, we identified that a portion of the workshop needed to include: time to reflect on fit issues within diverse courses and also the need for exit questions to reveal early challenges that faculty thought they might have during implementation. At the workshop we also identify dates to follow-up with participants. Our sense of how to support faculty at the workshop through guided discussions and providing supporting resources resulted directly from our own experiences developing InTeGrate modules (2 leaders) and implementing them. Early on, our team began making dynamic decisions in response to challenges and opportunities, building collaborative capacity as the projects evolved. With curricular reform underway on campus, we aligned the language of our recruiting effort with key ideas presented in new campus marketing (e.g. engaged learning, support for the first year experience). In addition, two of our team leaders served in the first cohort of the new FYE Program and we collaboratively developed a two day activity for students a year earlier than we originally proposed. Project team leaders also identified opportunities to invite sustainability speakers to campus through our Wittenberg Series and through other on campus events that are beyond the one speaker we identified in our initial proposal. Other opportunities to expand capacity for sustainability on campus grew out of our participation in diverse programs and diverse sustainability-related activities on campus.

Through our grant, four funded faculty built linkages through activities such as hosting a panel of experts and guest teaching, and several identified out-of-class sustainability activities or events that linked multiple classes. But the greatest opportunities (e.g. the Global Education Series) came out of dynamically exploring new opportunities. By dividing our energy, we were able to build collaborative capacity. Across leadership we worked with: student co-curricular organizations, the Sustainability Task Force, the Campus Communications Office, Witt Series, and multiple partners in the City of Springfield and local environmental and health agencies. All faculty in the Environmental Science Program worked on community projects prior to the start of this effort. There was an educative exchange between Environmental Science efforts in the community and our program. The Environmental Science Program moved intentionally toward using elements of the InTeGrate rubric to inform our class projects in the community, while this implementation effort identified a framework to expand community-based research from lessons learned in partner work. Team leaders also sought opportunities to connect campus to the community before the final phase of our project. We identified opportunities to collaborate on events with local food movement groups, and the City of Springfield Global Education Series. Through the latter, Wittenberg faculty led one event and Wittenberg students led another, showcasing our sustainability activities on campus to the Springfield, Ohio community. We helped plan a Giving Tuesday event to fund three student sustainability projects. Collectively, our leadership team was infused in curricular, co-curricular and community planning activities across campus and with the Springfield, Ohio community. In addition, while most classes added to the the sustainability offerings at Wittenberg came out of broadening the implementation of InTeGrate Modules, a few were added by participating faculty who identified other courses that met criteria.

Collaborative Products:

Collaborative products are the tangible results of collaboration such as grant proposals, scholarly abstracts and articles and shared assessment tools. We expand the definition to include events, workshops, and tools and all news articles on sustainability-related efforts at Wittenberg (press products). We also include created internships, as these will endure beyond a single year. Collaborative products include:

  • Three shared events with partners in the City of Springfield that reached student and Springfield, Ohio audiences
  • Press for sustainability through campus and local news outlets (35 articles between 2014-2016)
  • Multiple GSA abstracts with participants as co-authors
  • Multiple grant efforts of our community partners (e.g. Parks and Recreation District, City of Springfield, Springfield Promise Neighborhood) to improve land use and public education (e.g. recreation, stormwater management, food access)
  • Multiple faculty development workshops (e.g. pre-service STEM teachers, STEM active learning, and engaged learning) and curricular change efforts were informed by this project (e.g.the Departmental Engaged Learning Audit, new General Education learning goals, the First Year Seminar)
  • Multiple workshops for faculty outside of Wittenberg were informed by this effort, including two workshops at the Earth Educator's Rendezvous and one at the CUR National Meeting
  • Multiple internships were generated through intentionally cultivating new partner relationships to support our last project phase (e.g. Citizen's Climate Lobby, Parks and Recreation District, Health District-Lead Intern)
  • Shared framework for evaluating service learning for community-based courses with partners and spring and summer internships through the Hagen Center for Civic and Urban Engagement
  • Research equipment and use of land for community-based research that informs partners (e.g. use of the XRF and land at George Rogers Clark Park, Snyder Park)


Hall, K. L., D. Stokols, R. P. Moser, B. K. Taylor, M. D. Thornquist, L. C. Nebeling, C. C. Ehret et al. "The collaboration readiness of transdisciplinary research teams and centers findings from the National Cancer Institute's TREC Year-One evaluation study." American journal of preventive medicine35, no. 2 Suppl (2008): S161-72.

Kastens, K. Baldassari, C., DeLisim J. (2014) InTeGrate Mid Project Evaluation