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Findings methods

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Methods: We created and used both quantitative and qualitative, formative and summative assessment tools.

Findings:

Quantitative Results:

Environmental Psychology students were surveyed at the beginning and at the conclusion of the course for their knowledge and attitudes regarding environmental awareness, interdisciplinary thinking, and community-based, undergraduate research experiences. Survey results showed that students gained more experience in arguing critiquing different perspectives and better understood how different disciplines can come together to work on a problem. Students better understood the environmental problems that face our nation and gained more experience in working with the community. Students better understood the research method/process. Finally, students felt the (course) experience was better than expected, preferred learning through a research experience, and that working with other students and community members moderately enhanced the course experience. In summary, students were moderately likely to choose to have another research experience as an undergraduate, and we felt this is very promising. However, we were concerned with ceiling effects on this survey, as many students were highly rated on many of these measures already, prior to the course experience.

Qualitative Results:

To further probe why students evaluated the course experience the way they did, student focus group interviews were also conducted. Focus group interviews have been shown by others to provide in-depth qualitative information about selected topics (Gubrium & Holstein, 1997) (Krueger, 1994) (Merton, Fiske, & Kendall, 1990) (Stewart & Shamdasani, 1990) (Vaughn, Schumm, & Sinagub, 1996). At the conclusion of the course, a moderator (the Director of our Center for Teaching and Learning, Dr. Lisa Ratmansky) conducted two, small focus group interviews (during the subsequent academic semester) which consisted of five students in one group and three students in the other group. Both interviews lasted approximately one hour. One of our survey results referred to the fact that our class evaluation results strongly suggested that students gained a better understanding of how different disciplines come together to work on a problem.

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