Oceanography for Pre-Service Teachers

Kristen St. John

James Madison University,
Public four-year institution, primarily undergraduate


The syllabus describes the goals, objectives, assignments, and schedule used in the James Madison University undergraduate oceanography course for pre-service teachers.

Course Size:
less than 15

Course Context:

This is an upper level science course for undergraduate students who plan to be k-12 teachers, with the majority of the students going into elementary and middle grade teaching. The course meets 5 hours a week and has a multi-day field trip to a marine field station in Virginia.

Course Goals:

Through active participation in this course students should:

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

Content topics are aligned to state and national standards, and these are revisited though-out the semester. In-class activities, homework, tests, and the field project aim to assess the content learning goals.

Skills Goals

Through active participation in this course students should:

  • Develop skills in scientific investigation, reasoning, and logic (supporting Virginia Standards of Learning x.1 all grades; and ES.1&2).
  • Develop teacher professional habits of
    • exploration of prior knowledge prior to introducing new vocabulary or concepts,
    • reading (text, and secondary/primary literature) to support your own learning and professional development, and
    • reflecting on new knowledge and pedagogies.
  • Apply what they have learned via assignments, exams, and course projects specifically designed for pre-service teachers.

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

I aim to be transparent about the teaching decisions I make with the class. Explaining why we are doing a particular activity in a particular way. In-class work often include discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of activities and how these could be adapted for younger audiences.


Student learning is assessed via:
  • Group in-class activities which are graded based on completion of work and professionalism. At the completion of the activities we discuss their answers and address any lingering questions. Their professionalism is graded based on my observations of their behavior and attitude in class each day.
  • Individual graded homework.
  • Three exams that include individual and cooperative portions.
  • Field trip participation and and the development of a synthesis field guide.