Advice for Future Implementations
Part of the InTeGrate University of South Dakota Program Model
Consideration of context:
Most of the participating faculty are part of the College of Arts and Sciences. The college had recently spearheaded efforts on campus to showcase the importance of the liberal arts and sciences to undergraduate students. We felt the goals of our program model fit in nicely with these on-going efforts in the college to demonstrate linkages between disciplines while also attempting to increase science literacy. The Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences supports this plan as a mechanism to promote interdisciplinary connections in the College of Arts and Sciences as well as to increase interest in and growth of the Earth Sciences Department and Sustainability Program. In addition, our campus houses the Missouri River Institute (MRI), which fosters interdisciplinary research and education of the Missouri River. Our proposed program capitalized on pre-existing interest in the Missouri River on campus via the MRI. The theme and goals of our proposed program were therefore easily realized.
Things that worked well that we would do again
The faculty has been extremely positive about making changes to their courses and integrating science and sustainability into non-science courses. Collectively, the faculty has been great to work with in this respect. In addition to faculty enthusiasm the brown bag lunches were successful in getting the faculty together to give updates on how incorporating the InTeGrate materials was going in their classes, and to discuss what worked or challenges they encountered. The place-based learning also worked well for this project by allowing the faculty to relate to the material, thus helping students relate to the material as well. We hope to continue holding a workshop that includes a field trip to the river so that faculty can be inspired to incorporate the science of the river into their courses.
Strategies for overcoming challenges
As we noted above, we had strong institutional support for our program. This may not be a reality on other campuses. We highly encourage focusing on a theme involving placed-based learning for the river near your campus. The theme should be focused, yet broad enough so that several faculty can express interest and feel comfortable being involved. Some of our humanities and social science faculty felt a little uneasy folding science into their courses. It is important to provide them with resources that they can turn to (for example, lists of relevant InTeGrate materials, key texts, or other faculty willing to give guest lectures). Once faculty worked through this in one class, they realized how they could improve the next time.
As easy as it was to recruit faculty to participate in this project, it was occasionally a challenge to make sure some faculty followed through on desired outcomes, including assessment delivery. Everybody is busy and juggling multiple things. Heavy teaching loads undoubtedly played a role in this. Friendly but frequent reminders are sometimes necessary - and welcome - to make sure all information and assessment materials are collected.
Results from the student pre- and post-assessment were varied. While some showed improvement, others showed no improvement or actually performed worse on post-assessment. Some students failed to answer short answer or essay questions. Anecdotal information from faculty and students suggested that the students may have been suffering from "assessment fatigue". In our program we required a pre- and post-attitude survey, and pre- and post-assessment related to the InTeGrate materials. Students were also required to complete other assessment materials related to the course. In response, following review of the assessment results after one year of the program, we shortened the number of questions and essay style questions. We also are encouraging an incentive to complete the assessments, such as a completion score. We also realized the style of the questions may not have been appropriate for the humanities and social sciences. For those starting a project, we suggest consulting assessment coordinators on your campus or with the InTeGrate program to help choose and style the most appropriate questions for your program.
Things to think about before you start this type of project
Consider the size of your impact: how many classes will be involved? If you have a large number of classes spanning multiple disciplines, make sure you have the resources in place (such as a project co-leader) to manage the number of faculty, IRBs, and assessment data.
What is the theme of your project, and can you identify faculty willing to participate? Does your institution value integrative learning or encourage science literacy?
Is there a river nearby that students and faculty can relate to? How do they relate to it? Can you take field trips to the river? We realize not all courses can take field trips due to logistical or budget constraints. Even if one course can take a field trip the impact it will have on the students will be immeasurable.With a clear theme, an interest on campus, and a few faculty willing to lead, most of the rest falls into place. We feel the project has enriched not only the student experience but also the faculty experience.