Advice for Future Implementations

Part of the InTeGrate University Texas El Paso Program Model

Consideration of context

UTEP's administration has been supportive of innovative teaching and the use of authentic research experiences for their students for many years. UTEP and EPCC have recognized that they depend on one another for support since there are few other opportunities for higher education within driving distance of the region. Many EPCC faculty have degrees from UTEP or occasionally teach at both institutions.

Graduate students and new faculty were highly receptive to the new materials and teaching methods. It was difficult to convince many senior faculty to use the materials, but a number of them participated in the workshops; and, although they often did not use InTeGrate materials, they did start including more "hands on" materials in their courses.

InTeGrate's focus on sustainability and human's interactions with Earth is very appealing to our local student body. Issues such as water availability, land use and environmental justice are highly relevant to our students.

Things that worked well that we would do again

Holding workshops for faculty and graduate students was an excellent way to present the material and let instructors "test drive" it. Many were then confident to try that activity in their classroom. After they tried one activity and saw positive results, they were able to add other activities in subsequent semesters.

Graduate students appreciated learning about new teaching methods and were the most willing to try the materials in the classroom. Having a student perspective allowed them to see how the materials would benefit their students.

Workshops allowed instructors to meet one another and led to other interactions, such as working together on how to better advise transfer students.

Strategies for overcoming challenges

Some faculty were reluctant to get involved because of the amount of reporting required by the project. Others were put off by the amount of material available on the website. Workshops help break down materials into chunks that the instructors could readily apply in their classes. Follow up interviews (by phone or face to face) helped in collecting information from instructors about their teaching experiences.

When we began implementing materials, we decided to use one activity (activity 1 from the Climate of Change module) in many classes and collect responses for just a few key questions. This made it easier for everyone involved to participate and share results.

Repeated practice (through workshops) made instructors confident they could present the material in a new way. Once most tried an InTeGrate activity and saw the positive results, they were extremely willing to add another activity to their class during the next semester.

Things to think about before you start this type of project

Having more modules available earlier would have been helpful. A number of modules that cover material relevant to our classes are still not beyond the testing stage.

We would have started using the workshop approach to adoption of materials earlier. We discovered this was the best way to introduce materials and provide instructors with the confidence they needed to try activities. We also would have worked with graduate students earlier on.

We underestimated the difficulties of getting instructors to keep teaching logs or collect data from their students. Trying new materials is often enough of a strain without having to worry about collecting data. Interviewing instructors helped to collect some of their reflections.