Cutting Edge > Develop Program-Wide Abilities > Complex Systems > Teaching Activities > Review for interdisiplinary science course (stream ecology, watersheds)

Review for Interdisciplinary Science Course (stream ecology, watersheds)

Cailin Huyck Orr
Earth and Environmental Science, Washington State University
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Collection

Resources in this top level collection a) must have scored Exemplary or Very Good in all five review categories, and must also rate as “Exemplary” in at least three of the five categories. The five categories included in the peer review process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

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This page first made public: Apr 5, 2010


This is a large-scale participatory activity used to prompt students to review what they have learned and to think actively and cooperatively about the connections between the systems we have discussed prior to the activity. It produces a large, visual product students can reflect on.

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Two of the classes I teach, Stream Ecology and Sustainable Watersheds, have significant components from several different disciplines (geology, geomorphology, hydrology, ecology, economics etc.). This is an exercise I use near mid-term to begin to bring together the major topic areas we have already covered separately and to show students 1) how much they have already learned and 2) the interconnectedness of the topics we have covered. I have used it with both graduate and undergraduate classes.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students must have a good grasp of at least the basic concepts of how geology, geomorphology, hydrology and ecology function in watersheds. These topics could be substituted for others in a different system.

How the activity is situated in the course

I have used this after the first third or half of the class as a review and transition from learning about individual sub-systems to more integrated and process-based topics.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Content goals: Basic recall of the major physical and biological (and in some cases human) topics in watershed dynamics.

Concept goals: Beginning to piece together how physical and biological (social), processes are linked. Feedbacks, especially reciprocal feedbacks, between subsystems. Also, the existence of heterogeneity and disturbance at different spatial and temporal scales.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

This activity requires significant synthesis of ideas, application to a new setting and cooperation among classmates.

Other skills goals for this activity

Other skills goals: participation, comfort speaking up, practice trying and being wrong, discussion of ideas in 'public' among students.

Description of the activity/assignment

Determining whether students have met the goals

I coach the activity and prompt students when necessary to make sure everyone has participated and the critical topics have been covered. As a review, there isn't more evaluation necessary.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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