Overall Rating Gold - expired
Overall Score 65.21
Liaison Gary Cocke
Submission Date Sept. 11, 2019
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

The University of Texas at Dallas
AC-7: Incentives for Developing Courses

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00
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Does the institution have an ongoing program or programs that offer incentives for faculty in multiple disciplines or departments to develop new sustainability courses and/or incorporate sustainability into existing courses?:

A brief description of the program(s), including positive outcomes during the previous three years (e.g. descriptions of new courses or course content resulting from the program):

UT Dallas leverages the Quantum Leap Grant to fund and incentivizes the development of curriculum focused on community-engaged learning. Many of these courses have direct focus on sustainability, and students learn about issues and strategies to address the issues while partnering with area stakeholders.

A report on the Quantum Leap Grant and the sustainability impacts is provided below:

Our goal was to expand curricular programming and grow a connected community of committed and engaged scholars, thereby enhancing student academic and social belonging. A study examining the association between belonging and mattering found that taking courses as group with encouraging faculty may contribute to a student’s sense that they matter, a perception positively related to belonging (Cole, 2014). Research indicates that collaborative relationships among students, instructors, and the greater community embed the student’s education in a broader and meaningful context and enhances pedagogical practices outside the traditional classroom setting. Described as an “authentic” learning experience, focusing on topical issues in a real-world environment, creates shared relevancy and leads to transformational experiences for all involved. Students who participate in community-engaged learning courses develop powerful tools to create and strengthen social bonds (Cress, Collier, & Reitenauer, 2013). They find meaning in life’s stories and a belief that together, they can make a difference in the world. With resources provided through this initiative, this year we grew our programming, developed new community partnerships, strengthened existing ones, recruited and mentored course facilitators, and crafted innovative curriculum and training materials.

Progress towards Outcomes:
Align with institutional priorities and mission:
Theme two –Enrich the student experience

Theme two of our institution’s strategic plan is focused on student success. The plan “guarantees a comprehensive approach” and UT Dallas must ensure that they (students) are fully engaged and prepared for a life of contribution, leadership and fulfillment. Moreover, UT Dallas will ensure students gain marketable skills and service learning opportunities that help them develop as effective employees and citizens. Community engaged programming and curricular development focuses on this overarching goal. Findings demonstrate that reciprocal and creative learning helps students gain perspective as they address critical societal issues while helping build 21st century interpersonal and leadership skills. Additionally, due to growing interest and awareness about the benefits of community engaged learning, we are building a solid foundation to grow and sustain community engaged learning at UT Dallas. A long-term goal is to evolve from a campus with community engaged programming to a community engaged campus as we seek the Carnegie Elective Classification.

Build campus partnerships: Current programming was designed to enhance student belonging and to help meet increasing student enrollment and evolving demographic demands. Beginning in 2019, as service learning champion, my role grew from a school appointment in Behavioral and Brain Sciences to a half-time appointment in the Office of Undergraduate Education. As a result, we plan to extend our reach campus-wide. This year, we continued to collaborate with campus stakeholders to identify existing programming and ascertain faculty interest and needs. In the spring, along with the Center for Teaching and Learning, we offered several faculty and graduate student workshops. Through these, we established connections and offered guidance on the foundations of community engaged learning and curriculum development.

Cross unit collaboration: Another way we align programming with institutional priorities is a continued focus on breaking down silos and bridging academic and student affairs through community engaged learning. Members of the service learning sub-committee of our New Student Engagement Board (NSEB) represent units across campus and drive new student initiatives tied to the student success pillar of Belonging.

Build community partnerships: UT Dallas’ strategic plan includes a goal that we are, “A synergistic partner with local industry, government and cultural organizations as well as local K-12 schools, community colleges and universities.” Several of our programs align with this goal as we have developed partnerships with the Richardson Independent School District and the Dallas Independent School District. These relationships not only enhance our shared community goals but also provide a recruiting pipeline of potential students. Our vibrant, diverse and growing community provides limitless possibilities for developing new courses as well as soliciting support and resources to sustain current programs.

Program expansion: Community engaged learning encompasses several forms; service learning, community-service, participatory research and project-based scholarship. Through this initiative, we piloted a variety of courses incorporating different models. In all of these classes, in addition to fieldwork, students meet weekly to reflect and plan as well as discuss shared readings. Classes are detailed below:

Fall 2018: In partnership with the Richardson Independent School District, we expanded our #GOALS program to additional campuses and piloted Richardson GIRLS (GOING INTO REAL LIFE SUCCESSFULLY) on one campus.
RISD partners requested that we offer Richardson GIRLS due to a surge in bullying incidents, adjustment issues and other peer-related concerns. Using evidence-based social-emotional curriculum, UT Dallas students work with fifth and sixth grade girls to confront the various challenges encountered in the transition to middle school. Every week, students focus on a different theme; facilitate activities and share conversation and snacks.

Based on feedback from the spring pilot, #GOALS grew from one to three campuses due to requests from RISD. UT Dallas students met weekly in the field to interact with ESL and recent immigrant students from around the world. Through group engagement, UTD students facilitated goal-directed activities focused on adjustment challenges in adolescence and through the lens of assimilation.

Additional fall classes:
? Playful Learning: In collaboration with the Center for Children and Families, students work in the field with at-risk children (ages 0-3) and their parents and facilitate weekly playful-learning classes. Students learn and model age-appropriate activities and play-based strategies designed to enhance child development.
? Navigating Parenthood: Project-based class, on-campus class focused on the needs of pregnant and parenting students and the social implications of these challenges (one section).
? Hidden in Plain Sight (in partnership with the Dallas Independent School District) students meet weekly at drop-in centers established for homeless teens. Student-facilitated discussions range from coping with stress to setting life goals (one section).
? Women in STEAM (on-campus class offered in the Living Learning Community) (one section).

Spring 2019: Due to the success of programming, our RISD collaborations grew to seven total schools. The #GOALS program added another high school (three high-schools and one middle-school) and Richardson GIRLS expanded to three RISD elementary schools.

In addition to our other classes, in the fall, we will a new project-based class (described below).
Sustainability Leadership and Global Impact – students will gain a contextual understanding of global concerns through the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s). Students will collaborative to create solutions that will be taken to the North Texas Regional Center for Expertise for Education on Sustainable Development. Students will learn aspects of project leadership necessary to advance sustainability including project justification, implementation, budget development, stakeholder mapping, consensus building and developing key performance indicators.

Program and Curriculum Development Goals: To maintain consistency and rigor, courses are designed with several evidence-based key elements to maintain high quality community engaged learning:

Engagement: Mandatory participation and attendance. This expectation helps foster professional development and indicates commitment and respect for our community partners.
Academic Connections: activities and partnerships must be relevant to academic content and integral to the student’s course learning objectives. Students participate in shared readings and discussions and write regularly.
Critical Reflection: Students must be provided multiple opportunities and venues to reflect critically on their experiences. Research indicates that reflection activities (written and discussion) allow students to link course content with theory and experience to address important social issues. Through direct engagement, students should regularly process how their experiences shape their personal values and beliefs.
Value-added service: community relationships should be reciprocal, equitable, and produce mutual benefit. Students and class facilitators should develop and implement activities that meet identified needs.
Student-Centered Model: Notably, students are the co-designers of their own learning experience. They are individually responsible for crafting and facilitating an activity for the group and also for collaborating with their classmates. By leading reflections sessions and contributing their ideas and efforts, the sessions are dynamic and fluid, enhancing competencies and growth.

Facilitator and student stipends (for instruction and assessment support):
Grant monies provide stipends for class facilitators. Facilitators are compensated for their time organizing and leading community engaged learning classes.

Assessment of impact:
Student Outcomes:
Self-Determination theory as articulated by Deci and Ryan (2000) highlights three universal and innate psychological needs linked to motivation and life satisfaction; competence, relatedness and autonomy. Relatedness is seen as the universal need to connect, interact and experience caring relationships with others (belonging and mattering). Competence is described as the need to experience mastery and seek ways to improve outcomes and finally, autonomy is described as the need to be a causal agent of one’s life and to act in harmony with an integrated self. For individuals to function and grow to their full potential, an optimal social environment supports and nurtures these needs.
The initial goal was to enhance student belonging and mattering through course engagement and courses were specifically designed to meet that goal. Additionally, as evidenced from the student reflection journals, it appears that two other elements of Self-Determination theory were also pivotal in contributing to student reports of a highly impactful experience. These enhanced competencies are thought to lead to changes in self-efficacy.

Student critical reflection journals are primarily meant to be a vehicle for interpersonal and intellectual growth as students evaluate and articulate their experiences. Additionally, they are a rich source of supporting evidence of student impact.

Journals were full of examples detailing a growing sense of competence. For example:
If I could repeat this experience over again I don’t think I would change anything, because it gave me the confidence I didn’t know I had. I learned that through the challenges, my group and I were still able to overcome many of our fears.
I started off the semester feeling very shy and intimidated, and felt unsure if I would be able to “fit in” and be able to comfortably talk to the others. I was also hoping to gain confidence addressing the students, since it’s direct practice to what I will be spending my life doing: teaching. Proudly, I feel like I have accomplished that goal. Although I am still reserved, I feel very comfortable with our class and feel confident talking to everyone, which is something I tend to struggle with.
Each of us brought different ideas to the table. Kind of like a puzzle and we all were a piece to that finished puzzle.

The student-centered model contributed to a sense of autonomy, a factor that was recognized and applauded in the reflection journals:
Throughout the course we were encouraged to take charge and be the voice of the class, while taking turns and having the opportunity to create a lesson plan over the GOALS curriculum. Thanks to this course, I conducted my very first lesson plan, including an activity and took my fear away of instructing a classroom.
In this course, we not only came up with lesson plans but we also had the autonomy to think, create, and execute weekly ice breakers for the students and be able to guide them accordingly.

Reflection journals also highlighted cognitive insight and evolving perspectives focused on important issues of social justice:

A lot of my values, beliefs and opinions were solidified through this experience. The firsthand experience with immigrants and refugees gave me more insight into why I hold the political values and ideals that I do.
Last but not least, I believe that I’ve gained a lot of global/intercultural fluency. I’ve learned that the immigrant experience is not a monolith, and although I can relate to some of the things the Berkner kids had gone through, there are so many ways in which my privileges shielded me from things they had endured and continue to endure.
But over my 15 weeks at J. J. Pearce, I’ve broken down stereotypes I’ve held, changed some of my ill-informed opinions, and forged new skills. The biggest lesson learned is that, interacting with students with very little English proficiency, taught me how much privilege I have. My parents were immigrants but I was still brought up in America and I didn’t have the same cultural and socioeconomic barriers that some of these students currently struggle with.
Being a part of #Goals this semester was a perfect way to end my time at UTD. It was so amazing being able to work with refugee and immigrant students every week and it was such a humbling reminder that at the end of the day, all of us on this earth are just one big family.
Students are asked to select their own learning objectives (based on a list of 21st century transferable skills), integrate them throughout the semester and then reflect on their progress at the end. These skills were assessed via self-report, team and facilitator feedback.

Reflection narratives describe first-hand evaluations of interpersonal growth and skill-development:

My journey with the #GOALS program was truly impactful and a hands-on experience. Not only did I overcome my fears, I gained the confidence within myself, knowing this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. The GOALS program gave me the reassurance I needed to remind myself that this past five years at UTD was worth it.
I think a skill that I honed even more and was more comfortable was working together as a team and collaborating to accomplish the goals of this course. I have previously worked on group projects and done science labs with students and worked as a team, but never on a scale like this class.
From conducting games and activities for the students, helping them during activities, and to straight up presenting the activity as the facilitator, each task required a certain level of leadership. Every individual brought something valuable to the group and we all learned from each other.
I definitely honed a lot of my leadership, communication, and teamwork skills. I don’t get many opportunities to put those into practice, so this experience really challenged me to call on those abilities and work on them.
What drew me into the course was the hands-on experience and the role one takes as a mentor. Furthermore, the skills that you get to learn from that you cannot learn from in a classroom or reading a textbook. Additionally, the goal of the course is for the mentor and the student to grow and learn from each other. This subject is different because it is similar to volunteering however both parties are receiving a benefit and putting in their time.

Over this semester every time we met at Lake Highlands I got to collaborate as a team. Working with my fellow classmates has really helped me develop my teamwork and collaboration skills. It was nice to be able to work with such a diverse group of peers both during my lesson plan and theirs. I also enjoyed activities that had us collaborate with the students as well. All of my experiences at Lake Highlands better prepared me for teamwork and collaboration in my career. By working with a diverse group of facilitators I have better learned how I can be a team player and how I can best collaborate with others, as well as how to encourage teamwork and collaboration.

Analyses of Reflection journals via LIWC:
Research demonstrates that reflective writing practices promote critical thinking, challenge superficial assumptions, facilitate empathy and validate experiences (Tausczik & Pennebaker, 2010). Psychologists and linguists believe that we use language to translate our internal thoughts and feelings to others. Word use and word choice reflects what we attend to, our attitudes and our perceptions of the world and our experiences. Differential frequencies among word categories indicate a habitual style of observing and representing information. Studies indicate that reflecting (orally or in writing) is an active process that entails using cognitive and affective means to perceive an experience and translate it into language (Charon & Hermann,2012).

Linguistic Inquiry Word Count (LIWC) is a computerized text analysis software application developed to study the affective and cognitive components of language through word constructions and word frequency. LIWC calculates the percentages of words in a text document and categorizes them into comprehensive groups. Since we are still in the process of accessing, de-identifying and compiling the reflection journals for LIWC analyses, we do not have the full sample for this report. Preliminary data is displayed however in the appendices for illustrative purposes.
At the completion of the spring 2019 semester, 244 students have participated in the community engaged learning classes supported by the Quantum Leap grant. Based on feedback from our community partners, requests for program expansion, student interest and positive student self-report, there are many indications that participation in community engaged learning is impactful for many reasons.

In addition to the community-based field experience, students reported benefitting benefitted from the weekly seminar format where they learned about relevant topics from guest speakers, engaged in discussion, and completed other related assignments including digital diaries or e-portfolios. In general, students described being inspired by a sense of personal growth and maturity, involving greater purpose and meaning.

A brief description of the incentives that faculty members who participate in the program(s) receive:

Teaching stipends, Course Materials, Teaching Assistant Funding

The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

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