Michael Arthur: Using Water: Science and Society at Pennsylvania State University — Main Campus
About this course
A Success Story in Building Student Engagement
The course was taught as a blended course. The online materials and formative assessments were completed by the students at home, and the summative assessments (activities) for each module were completed during a weekly face-to-face lab/discussion session. This format worked very well with the content.
My Experience Teaching with InTeGrate Materials
The course was taught as presented in the online course materials. No modifications were made to the content. The initial offering of the course used a 60-minute lab/discussion session, which was not long enough. The second offering is using a 105-minute lab/discussion section, which we have found to be more effective.
This course makes use of formative "checkpoints" with automated feedback built into the online materials. In addition, each module contains several more substantial formative assessments, often in the form of essays. Most instructors will want to choose from among these formative assessments, or give their students the choice of which formative assessment to complete. All summative assessments are necessary in order for the students to get the maximum benefit from each module.
This course makes use of a number of different assessment elements:
- Formative Assessments with automated feedback
- "Activate Your Learning" elements have students interact with the online content, such as interpreting a graph or map.
- "Food for Thought" elements have students respond to more philosophical questions.
- "Learning Checkpoints" are short-answer or multiple-choice questions that review or apply the content as it is provided.
- Formative Assessments to be turned in
- The students complete these at home and bring to the lab/discussion session with them. Some formative assessments involve numerical calculations, some involve interpretation of graphs or figures, and many are short essays. They are generally used to prepare the students for the in-class labs, activities, or discussions.
- Summative Assessments
- These are generally completed during the in-class lab/discussion session, although some preparatory work may be required before coming to class. The goal is to synthesize and apply the topics covered in each module. Summative assessments are designed to encourage students to interact with real data, in some cases to create their own data sets, and to verbalize some of the larger societal problems posed by water accessibility issues. Examples include:
- Water Use Journal
- Hadley Cell Analysis
- Topographic Map Interpretation
- Hometown Flood Hazard Assessment
- Dams Debate
- Darcy Tube Experiments
- Hydraulic Head Analysis
- Water Contaminant Fact Sheet
- Water Portfolio for Phoenix, AZ
- Short Paper on Water Sharing Across Borders
- Capstone Project
- Students develop a comprehensive Water Portfolio to serve a water-critical urban area of their choosing.
We hoped that, through the materials provided in modules and the various assessments, the students would have a reasonably complete picture of water as a resource, locally and globally, and that they would be prepared to evaluate strategies for resource conservation and dealing with conflict resolution—sort of an ethical edge to water use, sharing, economics. We also hoped to illustrate to them how science, policy, and politics interact to provide solutions to water issues, from pollution to infrastructure for distribution. We succeeded with about 80% of the students taking the course, on the basis of assessments and comments on course evaluations. Most thought that the course involved more work than most courses for their individual majors, but that, through this work, they really learned useful concepts and new appreciation for water as a resource, including all the major influences on water availability and quality. Perhaps a fifth of the students had difficulty keeping up with the workload and performed at a lower level on completed work.