Paper No. 11-13
Presentation Time: 11:00 AM
LESSONS LEARNED FROM YEARS 1 AND 2 OF THE TIERA (TRAINING IN ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH AND ACADEMIC SUCCESS) PROGRAM
In September 2013 we received a Department of Education grant to increase the recruitment and retention of underrepresented students majoring in Environmental Science (ES) at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) by creating the TIERA program. The program includes extensive recruiting at area high schools, establishment of freshman learning communities, redesign of freshman and sophomore environmental science classes, peer mentoring, problem based learning activities and introduction of a 2-semester long research experience at the sophomore level. Preliminary evaluation of the program in December 2014 showed there have been important gains in students’ interest in environmental science, in their ability to use technical equipment and to interpret and analyze scientific data. UTEP students who assisted in running a field based hands-on activities for middle school students in fall 2014 showed particularly large gains in their confidence to engage others and conduct scientific procedures in the field. Over 90% of the student participants felt this experience significantly reinforced the concepts they had learned in their courses. Analysis of the Test of Science Related Attitudes administered to the freshman seminar class showed that student reported the most positive attitudes on the “Enjoyment of Science Lessons” scale. Inclusion of daily active learning and group activities in the freshman level Introduction to Environmental Science course (open to majors and non-majors) increased student interest, made students feel challenged to learn more and improved scores on exams and quizzes. ES Faculty have noticed that TIERA participants have positive attitudes towards their university experience and know what they need to do to meet their educational goals. In summary, after two years of curriculum revision, ES students are more engaged, have better academic performance, and better prepared for an ES career and serve the community.