Kerry Byrne: Using Introducing the Wicked Problem of Global Food Security in Sustainable Human Ecology course at Oregon Institute of Technology

Explore the 'Wicked Problem of
Global Food Security' Module »

About this Course

Sustainable Human Ecology is the 400-level capstone course for Environmental Science majors and Sustainability minors.

Size varies by year
25
maximum
5
minimum students

Three 50-minute lecture sessions


one 170-minute lab per week


Syllabus for ENV 484 (Acrobat (PDF) 477kB Jul5 17)

As my course is the capstone course for Environmental Science majors, students have a strong background in ecology and systems thinking already. However, at the outset of this academic year, I desired to bolster my coverage of food security in the course, because I know it is a topic of student interest based on past course reviews. This module was also attractive to me because of the use of ArcGIS Online – students in the Environmental Science major are required to take at least one full year of GIS courses, typically around their sophomore year. I wanted to capitalize on one of the strengths of our program and have students do a more quantitative analysis using real data.

One of the things I really liked about this module is that it was open-ended. I had a few students in the class that were not very enthusiastic about the materials, so they did the bare minimum required. However, I also had students that were incredibly interested in the material and really went above and beyond my expectations- the materials allow some students to learn a little and not put in very much effort, while at the same time allowing the higher achieving students to really aim for the stars! Because of this, everyone could stay engaged at different levels and I didn't lose anyone in this class that really varied in terms of enthusiasm and grade expectations. A few of the group presentations and chocolate story maps were mediocre; while a few other groups and chocolate maps were really quite outstanding; and these students really sought out additional materials for their analyses.

The materials allow some students to learn a little and not put in very much effort, while at the same time allowing the higher achieving students to really aim for the stars!

My Experience Teaching with InTeGrateMaterials

I modified this unit to focus our time on topics that I knew students hadn't covered in other courses or my course. I used Unit 1, and Units 4 – 6, and also developed a short powerpoint based on the reading materials provided in Unit 2 about the definition of a "Wicked Problem."

Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to my Course

I covered the module in three 50-minute lecture sessions, and one 170-minute lab session. I have divided my ten week course into approximately weekly modules, and I implemented the Global Food Security module about half-way through the term (see syllabus). I used a combination of short lectures and group exercises in class to implement the module.

Assessments

  • Unit 1:
    • Students submitted their assignments for the AGO Chocolate activity on the course management software.
  • Units 4-6:
    • I assessed their final presentations using the rubric provided by InTeGrate (unmodified).
    • I asked the following question on midterm as a short essay question:
      • What makes food security a "wicked problem"? As we've learned from our case studies, food security issues may vary from place to place. What are the similarities and differences among these issues in Nebraska, New York City, and the Caribbean?

Outcomes

My goal in incorporating this module into my course was to bolster my coverage of food security in the course, because students in previous years expressed it was of interest to them. In addition, this module was also attractive to me because of the use of ArcGIS Online – I wanted to capitalize on one of the strengths of our Environmental Sciences program and have students do a more quantitative analysis using real data. This module helped me achieve each of these goals and it definitely got students more engaged in the material; as each product they created was unique to them or their group; and was based on real-life data. I will definitely continue to use the module if I teach the course in the future!