Teach the Earth > Oceanography > Course Descriptions > Oceanography


Janelle Sikorski

Miami University-Oxford, Ohio,
University with graduate programs, including doctoral programs


Course material is structured to explore three general themes, including scientific ocean exploration, geologic features and active processes of the seafloor, and an exploration of a few of the challenges facing our ocean, such as climate change, pollution, overfishing, and oil spills.

Subject: Geoscience:Oceanography
Resource Type: Course Information
Grade Level: College Lower (13-14)
Earth System Topics: Oceans
Theme: Teach the Earth:Teaching Environments:Intro Geoscience, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Oceanography
Course Size:

Course Context:

This is a lower division 3 credit hour oceanography course with no formal prerequisite course work although most students take an introductory geology course before enrolling in this course. A majority of the students are fulfilling a liberal education requirement, some students are preservice teachers, a few are geology or environmental earth science majors/minors. This is a lecture course with no required lab.

Course Goals:

  1. Students should be able to compare and contrast the fundamental methods used by scientist to explore the ocean.
  2. Students should be able to evaluate the impact ocean exploration has on society and marine life.
  3. Students should be able to categorize the geologic features found on the seafloor and summarize their significance as natural resources.
  4. Students should be able to analyze several case studies to assess the types of relationships that exist between society and the ocean.
  5. Students should be able to illustrate habits that lead to a more sustainable relationship between society and the ocean.

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

The course is structured to allow the students multiple modes to engage with the course material including text, video, lecture, group work, in and out of class activities, guest speakers, demonstrations, and online resources. The course is also structured to provide the students many low stake opportunities to practice with course material prior to more formal evaluations (i.e. exams).

Skills Goals

  • Quantitative Literacy
  • Collaborative learning
  • Critical thinking/understanding context
  • Self-reflection

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

On most class assignments students are asked to reflect on any or all of the following: 1) their experience with the assignment; 2) how the information presented relates to their prior experiences; 3) what questions remain or were generated as a result of an activity; or 4) how their beliefs about a topic were impacted by the process of doing the activity.

Numerous in-class activities have the students working in pairs or small groups. During a few key class periods the students must debate each other over topics such as the use of SONAR in the ocean.

Attitudinal Goals

  • To increase student appreciation for scientific exploration of our ocean
  • To increase student confidence in working with oceanographic information
  • To increase student awareness of the importance of the ocean to society

How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

In-class exercises and out of class homework provide the opportunity for students to collect and/or interpret authentic data sets to explore course content at their own pace and with the support of their classmates. These activities are focused on "big questions" in oceanography and help to motivate students to research connections between society and the ocean. At least one guest speaker is invited to speak to the class each semester about their personal experience with ocean research.


Assessment is done through course assignments and specific exam questions.


Oceanography Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 144kB May31 13)

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