Pinar Batur: Using Regulating Carbon Emissions in Killing Fog: Coal, Energy and Pollution at Vassar College
About this CourseIt is a six-week course at the 200-intermediate level, taught for Environmental Studies, International Studies and Sociology, and was open to majors and non-majors.
Killing Fog: Coal, Enery and Pollution (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 119kB Jun21 16)
A Success Story in Building Student Engagement
The course that I taught, 281-Killing Fog: Coal, Energy and Pollution, is a half-credit course, cross-listed between Environmental Studies, International Studies and Sociology. Open to all students, it was attended by 30-37 students, some 16 of them formally registered for a grade and others for pass-fail, or auditing. I organized he course into two sessions per week: two-hour Monday lectures were complemented by one-hour discussion or project sessions on Friday. Some of the Friday sessions were designed for one-on-one consultation with me as an advisor on the students' research. As a multidisciplinary course, the focus was to connect scientific knowledge to public policy making, to explore the boundaries of civic responsibility, and the communication of risk. Overall, by connecting risk, science and policy making, we examined the science, economics and politics of coal usage, and its impact on society in the United States and globally, and we explored social movements against the hegemony of coal in the era of the Anthropocene. Thus, the course focused on various moments of "crisis" as temporal markers to analyze public policy as well as social movements.
My Experience Teaching with InTeGrateMaterialsI modified it/ and will modify it by introducing two elements: First, I will introduce the system thinking at the very beginning, and I will ask students to integrate systems thinking into their assessment of the future of coal at the end. Seconly, to emphasize the importance of participatory and well-informed citizenship, I will also let students read each other's Op-eds, which are products of the cumulative work we expected from our students at the end our module. They will be integrated into my class discussions in the future to explore different positions on the same issue. I did them both, but the time was limited.
Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to my Course
My course was six weeks long, and I covered the module in two and a half weeks of this course. I began to integrate components of the module earlier, but I taught the full module beginning from the third week.
AssessmentsThe Op-ed was an excellent assessment tool for my class, because my class focus was to verbalize the topic, to state its components well, and to integrate their disciplinary knowledge to an interdisciplinary systems thinking.
OutcomesOverall, I and my students were satisfied with our module. My students did well, considering that it was the first time that I was teaching this class and the module. I felt that they grasped the argument and they demonstrated their interest and commitment in the class.
I just received the written faculty evaluations from my students, and they stated "I learned a lot in this class! Citizenship matters!" "Class was perfect, excellent timing, excellent readings preparing us for the future," "Very enlightening and empowering," "I am a science student and I think classes like this should be a requirement for all science majors," "The class felt real with each and every topic: this is life!" The quantitative feedback from the students also complements these feedback, leaving me feeling good and satisfied. I feel that as educators, there is no more distinct reward than fostering curiosity, interest and commitment of our students to becoming responsible citizens in a global society.
In addition to teaching the 281-Killing Fog as it is, I am planning to integrate our module into my 125-Environmental Perspectives course, designed as an introductory course for the Environmental Studies program.