Public Policy > Classroom Activities > Discussion worksheets for popular literature readings on river processes and policy

Discussion worksheets for popular literature readings on river processes and policy

Scott Rice-Snow
Ball State University
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the 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 18, 2006


These five worksheets guide student preparation for in-class discussion of reading assignments from Life on the Mississippi, Cadillac Desert, and The Control of Nature.

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Undergraduate honors earth science colloquium (focused-topic class) on rivers.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

The following topics are introduced in lecture/practicum before each discussion:

How the activity is situated in the course

Throughout the semester, as part of a continual mix of lecture, hands-on work, discussion, and student presentations.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Specific content focus changes by assignment. Overall focus is on developing ways for society to intelligently deal with river systems through understanding of physical river processes.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Evaluation of complex issues bridging science, economics, and politics. Critical analysis of literature with a strong point of view.

Other skills goals for this activity

Applying science principles to critique social policy. Effective participation in large group discussion.

Description of the activity/assignment

I find that when assigning lengthy readings for in-class discussion, it is extremely helpful to guide students' preparation with specific questions, and incorporate these in worksheets that explicitly call for students to write out their responses before entering the classroom. These worksheets can provide some added structure for whole-class discussion, or can provide a specific agenda for review of the readings in small groups. Because these readings are more than a few years old, I have also found it useful to assign small groups of students to give brief reports that expand on and update the issues raised in the readings.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Monitoring of verbal contributions by individual students in discussion; related essay test questions.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Download teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

Reisner, Mark, 1993, Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water (Revised and Updated): New York, Penguin, 582 p.
Book review of Cadillac Desert

Clemens, Samuel, 1883, Life on the Mississippi (multiple editions).
Available online at

McPhee, John, 1989, The Control of Nature: New York, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 272 p.
More information at
Excerpt from the New Yorker magazine: Atchafalaya

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