Initial Publication Date: June 16, 2016

Robert Loeb: Using the A Growing Concern Module in Introductory Soil Science at Pennsylvania State University-Penn State DuBois

About this Course

Introductory course for majors in the agricultural and earth sciences.


Online but equivalent to
three 50 minute lecture sessions
per week

Syllabus for Soils 101 (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 27kB Jun8 16)

A Success Story in Building Student Engagement

The goal of Introductory Soil Science is to introduce the study of soil properties and processes and their relationships to land use, plant growth, environmental quality, and society. My offering of the course is online and serves a population of students who are primarily majors in the agricultural and earth sciences. Transforming the six units of a Growing Concern from the face-to-face format to the on-line setting resulted in valuable additions in regard to environmental quality and society.

Students in an introductory course are typically receiving a great deal of knowledge and conceptual frameworks but the Growing Concern module enabled me to add components that gave the students opportunities to integrate and translate their learning into public oriented products, which are much like what will be expected from them in their professional roles.

My Experience Teaching with InTeGrateMaterials

The six units of the Growing Concern module were transformed from the face-to-face format to be a project in the online course.

Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to my Course

The Introductory Soil Science course was offered in a 15-week semester. Before the project was open to the students, they completed the course components on soil formation and soil classification. The project was not integrated into the course sequence but instead the units were used to build to the outcome of creating a informational document for use by the public.


There was no need for me to develop assessments beyond those created for A Growing Concern. Matter of fact, I did not use all of the assessments available because I found some to be beyond the scope of my course. Of course, there was a need for me to modify the instructions to go from the face-to-face setting to the on-line setting. For me, the key assessments were the systems diagram and the agricultural fact sheet because the students were able to demonstrate their higher order understanding of the information and concepts presented in the module.


My vision for implementing the Growing Concern module was for the students to gain experience with systems thinking and translating their learning into recommendations to the public for changing practices in order to reduce soil losses. Specifically, my goals for the students were to be able to produce a systems diagram for reducing soil erosion and an agricultural fact sheet providing information and recommendations. The diagrams and fact sheets submitted by the students well demonstrated that they could analyze problems using systems thinking and transform their knowledge into statements that are comprehensible by the public.

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