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IMPACT – now accepting applications for the fall – continues to help faculty cultivate student-centered curriculum

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The IMPACT program, which connects faculty with teaching tools and support to redesign courses, is currently accepting applications for the fall 2014 semester.

When agricultural economics Professor Larry DeBoer took a sabbatical in the spring of 2013, he was looking for a few ideas to make better use of class time in his introductory economics course. Eight months later, DeBoer returned to the classroom with much more than a few ideas.

As a faculty participant in the IMPACT program, a University-wide initiative in which faculty redesign foundational courses around active, participatory student-centered teaching and learning, DeBoer worked with Purdue support staff and colleagues to develop a new framework for his course that has led to higher levels of student engagement.

“Instead of focusing on what I want students to know, now my course is built around what I want students to do,” DeBoer says. “That changes everything. Now I’m giving students a set of tools they can use to understand and analyze economic events as they occur for the rest of their lives.”

Entering its fourth academic year, IMPACT is currently accepting faculty applications for the fall 2014 semester through the IMPACT website.

Selected faculty must be able to attend and participate in regular cohort meetings, develop a course redesign plan, meet regularly and collaborate with support staff, and deliver a redesigned course within a year. Detailed information on expectations for participants is available on the IMPACT FAQ Web page. Faculty members who have questions can contact a member of the IMPACT management team.

IMPACT is a joint initiative of the Office of the Provost, the Center for Instructional Excellence, ITaP, the Discovery Learning Research Center, Purdue Libraries and Purdue Extended Campus to enhance student learning using research-supported teaching methods. To date, more than 125 faculty members have participated, resulting in more than 100 course redesigns. Since the 2011 fall semester, more than 25,000 students have enrolled in at least one IMPACT course.

“It’s a significant commitment for faculty, but I found every aspect of the IMPACT program to be beneficial, especially collaborating with the support team and listening to the perspectives of colleagues in other disciplines,” says Melanie Morgan, an associate professor in the Brian Lamb School of Communication.

Morgan joined IMPACT in the fall of 2013 to fine tune an introductory science communication course. Working with IMPACT staff, Morgan’s redesign resulted in a course that encourages students to use digital and multimedia tools to experiment and think creatively about conveying information.

“We already had a lot of student-instructor interaction in the course, but IMPACT helped generate ideas about how to create a supportive course environment and get students to better perceive the value of science communication,” Morgan says. “After changing several assignments, we’ve already seen improvement in the way students are engaging with the material.”

Jason Weiss, the Jack and Kay Hockema Professor of Civil Engineering and Director of the Pankow Materials Laboratory, participated in the same IMPACT cohort as Morgan. Weiss says the program helped him refine learning objectives for his course and implement changes with specific outcomes in mind.

“The IMPACT staff is really good at working within your style of teaching and making suggestions to enhance what you’re trying to accomplish,” Weiss says. “They’re trying to give you an arsenal of strategies and connect you to resources that Purdue has available.”

Currently, Morgan and Weiss are developing interactive e-texts for their courses that will tie directly to in-class content and be offered to students at a significantly lower price than traditional texts. The undertaking is part of an ITaP pilot program that both instructors discovered through IMPACT.

A year after unveiling his redesigned course, DeBoer says test scores on higher-level questions have improved. He now incorporates writing assignments, in-class group projects, and regular, immediate feedback so students can track their progress.

“The course is harder, students are engaging and using higher-level skills, and yet I’m getting the same evaluations at the end of the semester,” DeBoer says. “More students are walking away from the course understanding how economics affects them, which is the ultimate goal. I only realized that was the ultimate goal after going through IMPACT.”

Writer: Jonathan Hines, technology writer, ITaP, 765-496-7998, hines18@purdue.edu

Sources: Larry DeBoer, professor, College of Agriculture, 765-494-4314, ldeboer@purdue.edu

Melanie Morgan, associate professor, Brian Lamb School of Communication, 765-494-3305, morgan3@purdue.edu

Jason Weiss, professor, Lyles School of Civil Engineering, 765-494-0395, wjweiss@purdue.edu

Last updated:  June 27, 2014