Making and Sustaining Change
Consideration of context
Our work on this project began at a time when our institution was also making many changes so we were able to tie these together. Faculty often have a heavy workload so combining required institutional work with ideas that we were proposing through our work with SAGE 2YC brought great buy-in from our geology faculty members. For example, Wake Tech began requiring faculty to conduct a benchmark project each year, which includes researching a new idea, implementing the idea, and preparing a write-up on the research and results. We have been able to implement several changes such as preparing a list of very detailed lesson-level student learning objectives, creating and sharing a database of assignments that have worked in our classes, and implementing InTeGrate modules in our classrooms. Each of these changes included things that we wanted to implement from the SAGE 2YC project, but also satisfied our institutional benchmarking requirements.
The timing of this project was also good for building a network of 2YC geology instructors in North Carolina due to a number of recent statewide issues. This network has worked wonderfully for us to share information on teaching and learning strategies, ideas for increasing retention and student success, and transfer strategies.
Things that worked well that we would do again
Many people are hesitant to implement change. So finding ways to make those changes exciting and as simple as possible will go far to increasing participation. We worked to implement change on several levels. The first was in each of our individual classrooms, then we worked with our entire geology group at the college, and then we shared across our network in the state. When we were able to share changes we had made in our individual classrooms, we found that it motivated other faculty to make similar changes in their classrooms. Tracking these changes using some common questions and activities has helped our geology group to see where additional changes could be implemented.
Supporting faculty change
We supported faculty change both locally and regionally. At our regional workshops we started by sharing what we had learned at the national SAGE 2YC workshops, often using parts of activities and PowerPoint presentations that had been provided to us (see materials from SAGE 2YC faculty development workshops). As we grew and learned our workshops also evolved. We began including other faculty members as presenters at our workshops, which really helped build a sense of community. Our most recent workshop was almost completely people working together to implement plans built on knowledge gained from previous workshops.
Strategies for overcoming challenges
One of the most significant challenges that we faced was the lack of control we have over larger issues, particularly at the statewide level. Some of these issues included changes to graduation requirements that reduced geology course enrollment numbers, changes to admission policies that reduced student preparedness for our classes, and the fact that we do not have an official geology major track. Issues with the college admissions policies played a significant role as we had to change from teaching our students geology to teaching our students how to be college level learners. The SAGE 2YC project has provided resources that we have used to help our students overcome these challenges.
One other challenge is that with the excitement of wanting to make changes, sometimes too many changes can be implemented at one time, making it is difficult to determine what is working/not working. In addition, if the changes that you are making also coincide with things like admission policies changing, it can be difficult to tell how the various changes are actually affecting student success.
Things to think about before you start this type of project
We were lucky that we already had a group of geology faculty at our college that work well together, and that are not afraid of change. But we also did not want to waste anyone's time. Aligning our changes from SAGE 2YC with as many college required activities as possible made it easier for us all to work on these changes without worrying as much about time. So our advice would be to look at the kinds of initiatives being required by your own institution, and then select changes that fit comfortably under that umbrella. It will help with faculty buy-in, as well as saving everyone time.
We have been discussing sustainability with our colleagues at Wake Tech and across the state. Many of the changes we have implemented at the college will continue because they have been successful for our students. We also plan to keep trying new things as we evolve our teaching strategies. There is also a lot of enthusiasm for continuing to collaborate with our regional network, with more regular communication and continued annual workshops. Some of our colleagues at other institutions have expressed interest in hosting a future workshop.