Gigi Richard: Using in GEOL 196 Topics: The Future of Food at Colorado Mesa University
About this CourseAn introductory course for non-majors that fulfilled the science essential learning requirement (general education).
I piloted The Future of Food as a science essential learning (general education) course for non-majors taught in a hybrid or blended setting. We met in person once per week and the remainder of the course material delivery was online. The students were a diverse group, coming from different disciplines and age groups. Students were excited about the subject matter, but struggled significantly with the volume of material presented in the course, and the necessity to learn so much on their own because the course was implemented with a flipped approach. They were particularly challenged by the amount and variety of science concepts that were new to them.
To alleviate some of these challenges, I changed tactics and spent more time in class discussing the topics we were studying for the week to make sure that they understood the pre-class readings and activities. The in-class discussions helped considerably to clear up any confusion they had from the pre-class assignments.
The semester-long capstone project is the highlight of the course. Students explore concepts in the context of an assigned food region. Along with the capstone projects, we enjoyed eating foods from the capstone regions.
My Experience Teaching with InTeGrateMaterialsI didn't modify the course material significantly, but did lower my expectation of how prepared students would be when they showed up to class. I created handouts and PowerPoints for some of the modules to help the students grasp the concepts. I also added in-class lecture/discussion to help students with concepts they struggled with. I also reduced the blogging requirement after a few weeks. Since the pilot, the blogging requirement was eliminated. I also created a checklist for each week, which the students found very helpful in keeping track of all of the assessments, reading and other activities due each week.
Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to my Course
AssessmentsAll of the assessment were used in this pilot. In general, the assessments all make great use of authentic data, require students to perform systems thinking, and require students to employ geospatial thinking. In addition, many of them were pretty long and time-consuming. Some of them were a bit confusing and complex. Since the pilot of this course, most of the assessments were simplified and downsized to make them more reasonable for an introductory level course.
OutcomesMy vision and goal in teaching this course was to expose students to the complexity of our food system and the importance of our natural resources in supporting that system. Overall, I think I was successful in that goal. At the end of the course, students were generally more aware about the impact of their food choices on the environment, included water and soil resources. They expressed that they had a much better understanding of soil, which they explained was much more complex than they ever dreamed. They said that they thought about what to eat differently than at the beginning of the course.
I don't think students came away with as good of an understanding of the science as I would have liked because we tried to teach them too much advanced science and they got overwhelmed. In the pilot version of the course, there was too much course material, which has been scaled down considerably in the post-pilot revisions.