Improving Teaching and Learning

Part of the InTeGrate Shippensburg University Program Model

Courses and Materials Developed by the Project »

Impacts on Teaching and Learning

One of our hurdles was how to best engage faculty and students and motivate them in and out of the classroom. As one faculty member stated, "through awareness comes engagement;" another said, "awareness seems useful to inspire." These sentiments echo a unifying hallmark of our 3 goal areas. Through our InTeGrate program goals (i.e. Goal Area 1: professional development, Goal Area 2: curricular improvements, and Goal Area 3: co-curricular, and career/training), we have been able to initiate new partnerships to better impact our teaching and learning outcomes. Throughout this year long program, we have made headway on improving current courses and cultivating a campus culture that embraces stewardship, the importance of geoscience literacy, and sustainability. Our campus has been advancing efforts toward the goal of becoming more sustainable through facilities improvements which have resulted in a ~62% reduction in our carbon footprint relative to 2013 based on a recent Sightlines report. Likewise, faculty are making curriculum improvements and embracing co-curricular programs that add to the teaching and learning environment on campus and the experiences students have available to them to become better environmental citizens. A number of key impacts including: development of a new "proposed" major in environmental sustainability, broadened on-campus and community-based partnerships, and increased awareness across campus, are highlighted below.

Impact: A new major in Environmental Sustainability

Perhaps the most significant impact on teaching and learning as a result of programs emanating from our program model's three goal areas has been the revelation that many students wanted to learn more about sustainability once they were exposed to the ideas of sustainability through out-of-class activities. In a survey of participants who attended our Community Sustainability Forum, 75% of respondents indicated that they would be willing to either take a course (49%), complete a major (6%), or complete a minor (14%).

When asked a slightly different question regarding how likely they would be to investigate and learn more about sustainability on their own outside of a class, 54% responded that they were likely to or very likely to do so. It is clear from these data that co-curricular activities (including service-learning projects, external speakers, film series, discussion panels, etc.) are not only excellent at bringing attention to the importance of geoscience literacy, but they are also excellent conduits for generating interest in further study whether independently outside of a class, or through increased interest in a single course or even possibly taking on a new minor or major.

Given the latter, which mirrored the results from another survey collected by our department in 2016, it was clear that there was substantive interest in development of a new major. Therefore one of the key impacts on teaching and learning has been the development of a planned new environmental sustainability major. As of spring 2017, the proposal received all campus approvals and is awaiting final Board of Governor's approval for what we hope will be a Fall 2017 kick-off. Meaningful discussion and significant input from our colleagues from the College of Business and Arts & Sciences has helped to make this possible. At least 30 faculty stepped forward to support the initiative and have expressed an interest in teaching courses to support the major. Of these faculty, two thirds participated directly in one or more InTeGrate programs in the last two years (i.e. professional development activities curriculum enhancement workshops, or co-curricular programs).

    • InTeGrate-inspired programs contributed to raising awareness of sustainability on campus and have inspired action.
    • Faculty from 11 different departments will contribute to our new environmental sustainability major and minor.
    • More than 20 faculty participated in one or more InTeGrate programs and have participated in conversations that inspired action.
    • This would not have been possible without InTeGrate support.
    • We estimate that between 10 to 15 students will declare the major in the first two years and we hope it will grow.

Impact: Broadened partnerships and enhanced professional development activities

We are pleased to report that our workshops, and in particular our sustainability field conference inspired existing course re-development, service and stewardship activities, research, advising and mentoring activities to support and inspire our students. Many faculty have echoed the sentiment that our programs have been thought-provoking, far-reaching, multi-disciplinary, place-based, engaging, and inspiring. Moreover, if the major is approved, at least two new courses will be developed and will draw from InTeGrate resources.

Across all programs we initiated, at least 56 different faculty/staff/administrators/community participants as well as more than a dozen student leaders have participated in professional development activities. All have contributed in meaningful ways to the successes of our campus-wide InTeGrate sustainability programs (i.e. StewardSHIP Week programs, Campus Community Sustainability Forum, etc.). Many of these same individuals are committed to helping campus see continued growth of these initiatives in the coming semesters.

Impact: Increased awareness and inspired action through curriculum and co-curricular programs

The endpoint for all goal areas was to engage students and faculty through development/enhancement of activities to cultivate awareness and inspire constructive change. We are pleased to report that several assessment results provide insight into our overall impact on both co-curricular as well as course-embedded learning activities.

Given the results of one program survey, 74.5% of respondents said they were likely (42.6%) or very likely (31.9%) to change their own personal practices/behaviors/choices to be more sustainable now and in the future as a result of what they learned during the community forum. Not only does this data show students learned about the importance of sustainability, but it indicates that they were motivated to take action to change their behaviors as a result of a single 1.5 hour interactive panel discussion.

Based on >160 respondents to the Interests and Attitudes Inventory (IAI-post) survey, a high proportion of students in our InTeGrate courses reported high-levels of concern with several global grand challenges (for our region and their lifetime) as a result of coursework. Results show that 77.4% of students considered global climate change to be a major problem, 70.6% saw loss of biodiversity as a major problem, 66.3% identified population growth as a major problem, 71.2% identified energy resource limitations as a major problem, and 70.6% saw water resource limitations as a major problem for our region here in central PA. In contrast, less than 6% of students reported the following: climate change (2.4%), loss of biodiversity (4.3%), population growth (4.9%), energy/resource limitations (6%), water resource limitations (5.5%), and mineral resource limitations (6%) as "not a problem". Given the aggregate data on the post-IAI relative to the pre-IAI, it appears that students enrolled in our InTeGrate courses are increasingly more aware of the grand challenges and report higher-levels of concern with all 7 areas assessed. Further, when asked about their motivation to take action before and after taking their InTeGrate course, 59.2% reported that they were "slightly motivated" before the course and "highly motivated" after the course while 17.2 % indicated they were "highly motivated" before and after the course. Thus 76% of students finished their InTeGrate course with a high motivation "to take action in their personal and professional lives to create a more sustainable society." In another question, 55.6% of students indicated that "this course" was a factor in influencing their behavior to be more sustainable. In contrast, relatively few students (4 out of 157) of respondents indicated that their motivation to change decreased as a result of their coursework.

Collectively this feedback helps to validate the premise that co-curricular programming together with in-class activities are effective, high-impact vehicles for cultivating and inspiring student learning and motivating them to change behaviors in both their personal and professional lives. These data also form the evidence needed to shape new directions for our campus community and have been used to strengthen existing programs and enhance courses and our overall campus culture relative to the area of sustainability. Some of these are paying off in the classroom, others are impacting student engagement, enhanced career training, and new and renewed research partnerships including through the Center for Land Use and Sustainability (link: and through a re-named student club SEAS (Students for Environmental Action and Sustainability).