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Getting to the Point: Using Sustainability to Improve Student Learning in STEM. Debra Rowe, U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development and Disciplinary Associations Network for Sustainability Catherine Fry, Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) at AAC&U
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Getting to the Point: Using Sustainability to Improve Student Learning in STEM Debra Rowe, U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development and Disciplinary Associations Network for Sustainability Catherine Fry, Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) at AAC&U Nat Frazer, Utah State University and PKAL at AAC&U AAC&U Annual Meeting 2013 January 25, 2013
Organizing Partners: Sustainability Improves Student Learning (SISL) in STEM Project Kaleidoscope Funded by:
About the organizers… Project Kaleidoscope (PKAL) • Founded in 1989; now part of the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) • Leading advocate for building and sustaining strong undergraduate programs in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) • Network of nearly 7,000 faculty members and administrators at more than 1,000 colleges, universities, and organizations • Far-reaching influence in shaping undergraduate STEM learning environments that attract and retain undergraduate students www.aacu.org/pkal
About the organizers… Disciplinary Associations Network for Sustainability (DANS) • Sponsored by the U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development • Seeks to help higher education exert strong leadership in making education, research, and practice for a sustainable society a reality • Network of over thirty academic disciplinary professional associations dans.aashe.org
About the organizers… Mobilizing STEM Education for a Sustainable Future • Launched in 2008 with funding from the National Science Foundation • By more strongly connecting the content and pedagogy of undergraduate STEM courses to real-world challenges (e.g., energy, water, and food), the project aims to both improve student learning and to prepare citizens who are motivated to address these challenges
About the initiative… • SISL in STEM leverages the influence of 11 STEM disciplinary societies to contextualize teaching and learning in terms of sustainability challenges • These societies are working together to use sustainability to underpin their programs, policies, strategic planning, and member activities
Why sustainability? • The planet and its inhabitants are under unprecedented stress; addressing the associated challenges requires citizens and professionals who understand the scientific and social dimensions of these challenges, and who are motivated and equipped to help solve them. • The complex, interdisciplinary nature of sustainability makes it ideally suited to to be taught via evidence-based high impact practices (e.g., service learning, learning communities, writing across the curriculum and others1). • Sustainability is an exemplar of the “big idea”: a concept central to a course of study that serves as a linchpin to meaningfully connect many disciplines and apply in diverse contexts2. • Kuh, G. (2008). High-impact educational practices: what they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges & Universities • Sherman, D. J. (2008). Sustainability: What’s the big idea? A strategy for transforming the higher education curriculum, Sustainability: The Journal of Record 1(3), 188-195.
Why sustainability? • Relevance helps to sustain student motivation and enhance student learning3,4 • Students care about sustainability! In a 2012 student survey by the Princeton Review, 68% said having information about a college's commitment to the environment would impact their decision to apply to or attend a school. This commitment specifically included a college’s academic offerings5. • 3. National Research Council (2000). How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Washington DC: The National Academies Press. • 4. DeHaan, R. L. (2005). The impending revolution in undergraduate science education. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 14, 253–269. • 5. See survey results at http://www.princetonreview.com/college-hopes-worries.aspx
Who is part of SISL? • Disciplines represented: • Physical sciences • Life sciences • Social sciences • Quantitative sciences/mathematics • Applied sciences/engineering • Outreach to more
SISL objectives • Increase visibility of sustainability in introductory STEM courses • Improve access to and promote useof resources that increase student learning in STEM • Promoteadoptionof curricular materials and pedagogies that focus on real world issues and Big Questions related to sustainability • Collaborate across participating societies to learn from each other about what works and what doesn’t • Connect and sustain the efforts of participating societies in pursuing common goals and leading others to join these efforts
Project Teams • Develop & seek endorsement of common language on importance of & commitment to education for a sustainable future 2) Gather & disseminate resources to support infusion of sustainability into curricula 3) Implement interdisciplinary, problem-based professional development workshops on real-world societal challenges
Project Teams, cont’d 4) Develop policy recommendations to include sustainability in STEM education & establish pathways for civic engagement 5)Conduct audience research to refine messages & guide communication about sustainability 6) Develop content for introductory STEM courses & improve publisher/author inclusion of learning activities on sustainability & problem-solving
Ultimately, the goal of our initiative is to increase student learning in undergraduate STEM courses in order to better prepare them for playing a role in solving the 21stcentury “Big Questions" that relate to real-world issues such as energy, air and water quality, and climate change.
Sustainability is… “meeting the needs of the present without comprising the ability of future generations to meet their needs”~ “Our Common Future,” United Nations Brundtland Report, 1987
Educating for a Sustainable Future “…enables people to develop the knowledge, values and skills to participate in decisions …, that will improve the quality of life now without damaging the planet for the future… ” -- World Summit 2002
Ecosystem Ecosystem Sustainable Communities Public Choices and Behaviors-Laws Applied Knowledge/ Technological Skills Private Choices and Behaviors-Habits Sustainable Economies Ecosystem Ecosystem
“The challenge of living on this emerging planet is the challenge of our time, exempting no one, no organization,no nation, and no generation.” David Orr, page xvi
Each academic discipline has a unique and important contribution to make to solutions to our shared sustainability challenges. Provide students multiple learning opportunities for real-world problem solving to: • understand our sustainability challenges • develop the skills and knowledge to engage in personal and systemic solutions
A Useful Exercise In the next five minutes: • Faculty – Think of a big idea you already have to teach in your course and a big sustainability idea. Create a learning activity that includes both. • Everyone else – Take your job activities and/or your daily activities and think about how you can make them more sustainability oriented in terms of your behaviors, the normal practices or the policies in the organization. Describe the actions you can choose to help build a culture of sustainability. • When finished, share among the group. Thanks to Jean MacGregor at Curricula for the Bioregion for this idea.
Ways to integrate sustainability(hundreds of precedents already) • Relate as examples to course’s core concepts (e.g., combustion of fossil fuels chemical equation/operant conditioning) • Theme throughout the course (e.g., How can we use what we’re learning to make the world a better place?) • Class projects (Design a transition off of toxins and share with city planners) • Assessments (include sustainability concepts)
Creating Systemic Change What is working and where are you getting stuck? Using the cards provided, please write down the successes and the barriers you have encountered in terms of integrating sustainability into the curriculum or elsewhere. When finished, please pass them forward.
Ways to integrate sustainability* = systemic change (hundreds of precedents already) • *College-wide readings (e.g. Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization by Lester Brown) • *Minors (more potent than majors) • *S in the schedule and supplement to transcript • *Across the curricula initiatives • *Interdisciplinary offerings • *Gen Ed requirement for all degrees • *Ongoing PD, communities of practice, PD grants • *Upload activities into the SISL site to share with thousands
Resources & opportunities • Home page – brochure, articles, presentations, list of societies, more!! - http://www.aacu.org/pkal/sisl • Sustainability Improves Student Learning – Resource Center and Beginners’ Toolkit – http://serc.carleton.edu/sisl/index.html • SERC Sustainability Guide for Educators - http://serc.carleton.edu//serc/site_guides/sustainability.html • Curricular and teaching resources: http://www.aacu.org/pkal/disciplinarysocietypartnerships/sisl/teaching.cfm • Call for reviewers of sustainability content in textbooks: www.aashe.org/announcements/textbooks