Teach the Earth > Public Policy > Classroom Activities > Development of a Syllabus for Environmental Issues course

Development of a Syllabus for Environmental Issues course

Syed Hasan
University of Missouri-Kansas City
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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

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: Apr 18, 2006


Students' participation in developing syllabus for a new course "Issues in Environmental Science." Details are included in the document.

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This is a 200 level required course for environmental science/studies majors

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students must have already completed an introductory course titled "Understanding the Earth" (EnSc 110)

How the activity is situated in the course

Semester long


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Engage students in determining course syllabus

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Research papers require separating facts from opinions; critical analyses of information and data

Other skills goals for this activity

Training in writing scientific papers

Description of the activity/assignment

We introduced a new required course "EnSc 210: Issues in Environmental Science" for our majors about three years ago. When I was assigned to teach this course for the first time, I struggled with developing a syllabus and recommending a text for the course. Since we also offer classes in "Environmental Geology" and an introductory course "EnSc 110 Understanding the Earth," the challenge was to avoid duplication while developing an appropriate syllabus. What I finally decided to do was to have students provide ideas. So, on the first day of class I announced that we don't have a syllabus for this course (many sighs of disappointment) and, after a brief remark on some current environmental issues, invited each student to suggest at least one topic for inclusion in the course. After some hesitation (as expected) hands went up and I began writing each topic on the white board. Pretty soon we had 20-25 topics with some overlapping themes. Some of these included: population problem, global climate change, air and water pollution, waste management, environmental health, species decline, environmental impact of large dams, and sustainability. After some discussions about relative importance of various topics and the time available to cover each during the semester, we narrowed it down to about 10 topics for detailed study. I prepared my syllabus (linked below) based on this list which worked very well because: we were able to include key topics and, very importantly, students felt a sense of 'ownership' which led to a very interesting and interactive class experience throughout the semester.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Grading of the research papers, quizzes and tests

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

Several from EPA, CDC, etc.