An Interdisciplinary Approach to Implementing Change

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Title of Abstract: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Implementing Change

Name of Author: Judy Awong-Taylor
Author Company or Institution: Georgia Gwinnett College
Author Title: Associate Dean
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: Interdisciplinary
Course Levels: Across the Curriculum, Faculty Development, Interdisciplinary, Introductory Course(s), Upper Division Course(s)
Approaches: Adding to the literature on how people learn, Assessment, Changes in Classroom Approach (flipped classroom, clickers, POGIL, etc.), Material Development, Mixed Approach
Keywords: Interdisciplinary; course-embedded research; mini-grants; authentic research student-centered

Name, Title, and Institution of Author(s): Thomas Mundie, Georgia Gwinnett College Clay Runck, Georgia Gwinnett College Allison D'Costa, Georgia Gwinnett College Greta Giles, Georgia Gwinnett College David Pursell, Georgia Gwinnett College

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: Georgia Gwinnett College’s STEM initiative is based on an integrated plan that includes a 4-year Undergraduate Research Experience (4-Yr URE) program designed to enhance student engagement and learning in STEM disciplines and to support faculty innovation and leadership. By providing students’ with research experiences through all four years of their matriculation, we hope to increase retention, improve student engagement, and increase students’ interest in STEM. The 4-yr Undergraduate Research Experience program identifies key courses in each year of the curriculum during which students are exposed to many of the key skills and competencies described in Vision & Change, including authentic research experiences. The goals and purpose of the 4-Yr URE program are closely aligned with the recommendations outlined in Vision & Change but focuses not just on biology education, but on an interdisciplinary approach that engages all STEM disciplines within SST.

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: To support and implement the 4-Yr URE program, SST has developed a structured mini-grant program that allows faculty to submit proposals focused on re-designing their curricula to include authentic research experiences that engage students and promote active learning skills. The Mini-Grant Program is funded through a grant from the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. Mini-Grants fund projects that address: 1. Development and implementation of course-embedded projects promoting 4-yr URE model 2. Development and implementation of Undergraduate Research Projects 3. Development, implementation, and research of instructional strategies that pertain to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Types of projects funded included: 1. Pilot Projects (e.g. involve one section to test an idea; one semester) 2. Small Scale Projects (e.g. involve 2-3 sections; 1-2 faculty; 1-2 semesters; funds for supplies/equipment) 3. Large Scale Projects (e.g. multiple sections; 2 or more faculty; 2-3 semesters) Over the past two years, 47 mini-grants have been funded with the following results: over 200 SST faculty have engaged in innovative ways of developing and/or redesigning courses, 29 courses have been re-designed, and over 7000 students have been directly impacted by these courses. In biology, nine biology courses are now re-designed to include authentic research experiences along with research skills and STEM competencies. Introductory level courses now focus on student-centered learning and W/WF rates have declined from 18.8% to 6.2% (Principles of Biology I). Research projects now link upper level courses with lower level courses. Interdisciplinary collaborations are taking place, e.g. ITEC faculty and their students develop animations for Biology faculty and their students. New interdisciplinary capstone course developed that focuses on analyzing real world issues from a scientific, political, economic and social perspective.

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: Assessments for the 4-yr URE Program include the following: 1. Student Attitudinal Surveys To assess and evaluate the overall 4 yr URE Program, we developed student assessment surveys (IRB approved) for all mini-grants that implemented course-embedded research. Assessment surveys (Likert-type scales) were administered both pre- and post-exposure to the labs. Pre-Assessment Surveys were administered during the first week of class in all sections, both ‘intervention’ and ‘control.’ An identical Post-Assessment survey was administered at the end of the semester. This survey addressed: attitudes about STEM, research skills, and understanding and awareness of research. 2. Course Content Assessment PIs of mini-grants developed content assessments for the re-designed course. Pre-assessments were administered at the start of the semester or at the start of the new module; post assessments were administered at the end of the semester. Course content assessment included components related to discipline-specific research skills and how the research-based module affected students’ research skills. PIs were responsible for analyzing their content / research skills assessments, and results of these assessments are included as part of the final mini-grant reports. 3. Faculty Attitudinal Survey An outcome of this program is to encourage faculty to become more engaged in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning and the way in which they teach and engage their students. Our goal is to change the culture of our faculty so that active student engagement is the norm. In order to determine if faculty attitudes will change over time, we developed a faculty attitudinal survey (IRB approved) that will provide longitudinal data over the course of the grant. 4. GGC Institutional Data * student performance in courses impacted by the mini-grants * number of STEM Majors and retention rates * number of STEM degrees awarded * race, ethnicity and gender in STEM courses

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: Faculty have been very supportive and enthusiastic about the 4-Yr URE Program and the opportunity to participate in the Mini-Grant Program. The Mini-Grant program has been instrumental in providing incentive for faculty to re-consider instructional approaches. Administration has also been very supportive of this work. The Dean of SST has worked with scheduling appropriate courses to faculty awarded mini-grants and has approved all ‘intervention’ sections. Additionally, this work (if properly assessed and evaluated) will be considered as scholarly contributions as part of faculty’s promotion portfolios. The institution emphasizes innovative use of educational technology, active-learning environments, and assessment based courses. Numerous opportunities exist for faculty to engage in and learn about new technology and new ideas on improving instruction, enhancing student engagement, and focusing on student-centered learning. Assessment and evaluation of courses and programs are the norm and have been part of the GGC culture from the very beginning. Faculty are also strongly encouraged and rewarded to be innovative, experimental, collaborative and interdisciplinary. It is still too early to assess the impact on students but course evaluations indicate that students are beginning to appreciate student-centered learning.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: Re-designing, implementing, and assessing the new courses has proven to be extremely challenging and time-consuming to faculty. Despite this challenge, faculty continue to participate in this program. We are extremely fortunate to have a core of energetic and enthusiastic faculty who are willing to accept the challenge of changing the way we teach so as to better engage our unique student population. It is still a challenge to re-design the curriculum for some of the targeted courses on the 4-Yr URE sequences but we have had some innovative ideas that we hope can be adapted to fit these courses.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: The 4-Yr URE program described above has been presented at several national conferences. Additionally, PIs of mini-grants have presented their work at various regional and national conferences. A total of 96 presentations/posters were presented over the past two years. Many faculty are still in the process of further analyzing data and anticipate presenting their work in FY 2014 or publishing their findings in scholarly journals. Students involved in the research components of the re-designed courses have also presented their work at various venues.

Acknowledgements: Georgia Gwinnett College acknowledges the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia for their financial support of SST’s 4-Year Undergraduate Research Experience Program. We would also like to thank the many dedicated SST faculty who wholeheartedly embraced the idea of a student-centered learning approach to education.