Initial Publication Date: December 1, 2016

Improving Teaching and Learning

Part of the InTeGrate University of South Dakota Program Model

Courses and Materials Developed by the Project »

Impact on Teaching and Learning

Impact 1: Broad student participation

In the 2015-2016 academic year, approximately 230 students enrolled in courses participating in the Sustainable Rivers project, with 80% of those students in lower-division courses and 20% in upper-division courses. Of the students that in these courses, 30% of them were in humanities courses 26% in social science courses, and the remaining 44% of students were in science courses.

Impact 2: Interdisciplinary learning

Faculty who participated in the Sustainable Rivers program noted that students appreciated the interdisciplinary nature of learning about the Missouri River. Aimee Sorensen, who instructed Honors Speech Communication, valued her class' participation in Sustainable Rivers. "The most valuable part of this endeavor was the place-based learning component, and how we connected to issues about the Missouri River. I would say this was certainly a success for our mission as a liberal arts and sciences institution!" Elise Boxer, who taught Introduction to Native Studies, noted that "The pedagogies we used in our classrooms varied, but I know that I wanted students to see how sustainability could be addressed and potentially solved using an interdisciplinary approach." David Swanson, Missouri River Institute director, taught a large introductory biology course and recognized that Sustainable Rivers "also allowed me to provide a better foundational understanding to students of the cascading effects of human alterations of rivers, and by extension other geological landscapes, on biotic and abiotic features of the environment."

Supporting Faculty Change

We identified faculty who had a pre-existing interest in the Missouri River, or rivers in general. These faculty participated in a workshop at the beginning of the program model. This workshop had several goals: 1) introduce them to InTeGrate and the modules relevant to our program, 2) inform them of the expectations of faculty participating in the program, 3) inspire them by listening to a guest speaker that summarized the science, history and culture of the Missouri River, followed by a field trip to the Missouri River so they could experience the river first-hand, and 4) allow them to brainstorm ideas about how they would integrate the river into their course. A course proposal was due later that summer from participating faculty, evaluated by the team leads.

Once the semester began, we held brown bag lunch meetings approximately once a month. These meetings allowed faculty to 1) ask questions about logistics of the program, assessments, or InTeGrate materials, 2) share ideas or concerns.

After completing our program, we convened a half-day workshop that allowed us to 1) summarize the impact of our program (number of students, courses, and modules used), 2) share what worked and didn't work in the various courses, 3) talk about the future of the program and what changes might be made. All faculty agreed to continue with the program in their courses, but unforseen changes in some faculty course assignments or course focus resulted in a few faculty not participating in the program the following year.