Rick Oches: Using Cli-Fi at Bentley University
About this courseAn upper-level Natural Science General Education elective for business students; required course for students in the Sustainability Science B.A. degree program.
Science of Sustainability course syllabus (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 70kB Feb8 16)
A Success Story in Building Student Engagement
With mainly business students, I used this module in an interdisciplinary sustainability science course to connect the environmental and societal issues of climate change, continuing with the "wicked problems" theme we had been developing all semester.
Climate change was already a significant component of the course, as was data plotting and graphical communication of data, so students were able to move through Units 1 and 2 rather quickly.
My Experience Teaching with InTeGrate Materials
Module components were incorporated as a combination of in-class activities and homework assignments over a two-week period of the Science of Sustainability course. Additional class time was spent prior to the module discussing Earth's climate system and the science of climate change, so students began with some climate change understanding.
Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to my Course
As an interdisciplinary sustainability course for non-STEM students, I had the flexibility to integrate the Cli-Fi module into my course without compromising other essential content. I incorporated the module during the final two weeks of the semester and built the summative assessment into the take-home final exam for the course. In the week prior to the module I introduced students to climate change. They had previously plotted several multivariate data sets as Excel graphs, so they were familiar with graphing and communicating data before the module began.
Students completed the assessments as we proceeded through the different units. Some were done as in-class group activities, while others were completed as homework assignments. Not all were formally graded—some were simply checked for completion. The summative assessment was incorporated into the take-home final exam, which they had one week to complete. Completing the module in two weeks required more homework and student preparation than they had been accustomed to. This was especially challenging, coming at the end of the semester, which is typically a high-pressure time for students. In the future I would add an additional class meeting and build it into the mid-semester part of the course.
What impressed me most about the student response to the Cli-Fi module was the way so many of them integrated material from throughout the semester into the summative assessment on the take-home final exam. I expected them to connect climate change science and literature, but they pulled in material on population, water resources, energy choices, and ecosystem services in their analysis of the short stories in ways I had not expected. Clearly, they engaged with the activity and enjoyed making connections between scientific and literary ways of communicating a pressing global sustainability challenge.