Martha Murphy: Teaching A Growing Concern in Introduction to Environmental Science at Santa Rosa Junior College
About this course
An introductory general education course.
Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 614kB Jul18 14)
A Success Story in Building Student Engagement
I taught this module in a once weekly, 3-hour-long evening class. My goal was to teach all six units consecutively over a two week period in my course, teaching 3 units each in two consecutive 3-hour-long classes with breaks. Instructing in this manner required a good deal of planning ahead, so that pre-work was done ahead of time and so that homework was assigned when appropriate. Because my class is an evening class, many of my students are what are described as "returning" students, many of whom are already working full time. This type of students is usually quite engaged in the subject matter and they usually come to class well prepared. The structure of the module was very similar to the way I run my class, so it was easy for all of my students to engage in the in-class activities. They were used to learning this way.
I was quite pleased at how well the module progressed. The units built on one another, and at the end my students, who were not specifically agriculture students, understood how soil, agriculture, and climate change are all related. Based on what they had already learned during the semester, I think my students understood going in that soil is a natural resource that we are in jeopardy of losing, but by the end of the module they really understood the general science behind soil as a resource and how agricultural practices impact its loss or retention.
My Experience Teaching with InTeGrate MaterialsMy goal was to complete all activities in the module as written. Because we ran late the first week, we completed Units 1 and 2 the first week, then completed units 3 through 5 the second week, and then unit 6 at the beginning of class the third week. This actually worked better than trying to do three units in three hours for two weeks in a row. It allowed the students to do homework from Unit 1 after the first class, and the homework for Units 3 and 5.
Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to my Course
Instruction began during the eighth week of a 16-week semester of a general education introductory Environmental Science course. The students had already been introduced to the study of Environmental Science and had studied environmental history/ethics/economics, ecology and ecosystems, and matter and energy. The module was a good introduction to the potential impacts of global climate change, which my students were to study later in the semester.
I used all of the assessments included in the module, both formative and summative, but I don't think that the students really viewed them as assessments. They are, however, an extremely important part of the learning process. The agricultural fact sheet was the ideal summative assessment for this module. It tied together concepts they learned throughout the module and it allowed them to tie in some of their work from earlier module units.
My goal for teaching this module was to have students learn a new topic within their subject matter and at the same time learn to be systems thinkers. Students tend to focus on knowing the facts, whereas those facts cannot be applied without a context – in this case, Earths' systems. My students did a good job of stepping back and taking a look at the big picture, mainly because they were prompted to do so by the module materials. It was a good reminder for them to do this. They also learned how to make objective observations and analyze data, two very important scientific tools. To wrap it up, the summative assessment gave them the opportunity to produce something as a scientist that would be useful to the public.