Approved by Faculty Senate
University Studies Course Approval:
Department or Program: Biology
Catalog Description: Problems in the wise use of natural resources with emphasis on human impacts and sustainable living. Lecture only. Offered each semester.
This is an existing course that has previously been approved by A2C2: Yes
This is a new course proposal: No
(If this is a new course proposal, the WSU Curriculum Approval Form must also be
completed as in the process prescribed by WSU Regulation 3-4.)
Department contact Person for this course: Robin Richardson
A2C2 requires 55 copies of the proposal
The proposed course is designed to satisfy the requirements in
A. Basic Skills:
1. College Reading and Writing ____
2. Oral Communication ____
3. Mathematics ____
4. Physical Development and Wellness ____
B. Arts & Sciences Core:
1. Humanities ____
2. Natural Sciences X
3. Social Science ____
4. Fine & Performing Arts ____
C. Unity and Diversity:
1. Critical Analysis ____
2. Science and Social Policy
3.a. Global Perspectives ____
b. Multicultural Perspectives ____
4.a. Contemporary Citizenship ____
b. Democratic Institutions ____
D. Flagged Courses
1. Writing ____
2. Oral ____
3.a. Mathematics/Statistics ____
b. Critical analysis ____
Department Recommendation: Approved Yes Disapproved _____ Date 22 Sept 2000
Dean's Recommendation: Approved Disapproved Date
USS Recommendation: Approved Disapproved Date
A2C2 Recommendation: Approved Disapproved Date
Faculty Senate Recommendation: Approved Disapproved Date
Academic Vice President's Recommendation: Approved Disapproved
President's Decision: Approved Disapproved Date
Material Submitted for Course Approval
Overview of BIOL 104 Conservation
BIOL 104 Conservation is a multi-purpose course. It is intended to simultaneously satisfy the needs of students with respect to the University Studies Program goals and satisfy requirements for teaching certification in the tri-state area. The course offers a global perspective of issues most students will encounter including global warming, ozone depletion and resource limitation. Several themes weave through the entire course including: opinion formation, skepticism born of scientific inquiry and sustainability.
This course is taught with an enrollment of about 180 students in a large auditorium, such as ST103 or PA201. The course typically overfills with enrollment between 180 and 190. Efforts are made early to contact students individually with mandatory office visits and small group exercises. Most of the students enroll in the mega-section to remain anonymous (according to evaluations), but I try to open interaction for those who are interested.
Grades are determined by performance on three exams, two debates (Db on the grid below) and a series of exercises (Ge on the grid below) and quizzes. Students may choose to complete a proposal, an exercise that has the potential to replace an exam or debate. Typically, two-thirds of the class complete proposals and at least this many participate in community service (Cs on the grid below) offerings (the CropWalk has been a popular alternative). The three exams are in multiple choice and matching format. The emphasis is on critical thinking, discriminating the correct response from similar alternatives. The two debates encourage teamwork. Students are assigned groups and opinions. The groups meet during and outside of class, researching their assigned opinions and organizing the information into an effective debate. Teams have three spokespersons, presenting an introduction, rebuttal and summary. Grades are assigned by team-mates and peers on other teams.
Exercises include opinion formation and small group tasks. These have proven effective for increasing students' awareness of alternative views and allowing students to discard na´ve notions. Groups are assigned by random drawing of colored paper, a process that never allows the same individuals to inhabit the same group. Typical exercises ask the group to read and outline a short media piece (newspaper, magazine or Internet) and discuss alternative viewpoints. They then poll the group for opinions and discuss the basis of each opinion.
Most of the students (usually two-thirds or more) complete an extra credit proposal. They choose any topic related to conservation, outline a problem and propose a solution. Topics have ranged from local issues such as making the campus more environmentally friendly to global issues. Students build models, design web or PowerPoint presentations and present their ideas to the class.
Course evaluations show that students feel they learn best from the debates and proposal preparation. They also react positively to the group activities.
1.Requirements and learning activities that promote students' abilities to understand how scientists approach and solve problems in the natural sciences.
The course contrasts scientific knowledge to the domains of religion and philosophy. This clarifies the scientific perspective, an emphasis that is reiterated throughout the course. The text has renewed its emphasis on scientific data collection as it applies to environmental problems. Required readings are discussed in class, emphasizing the difference between the scientific approach and the approach in the media. The contrast allows the rather immature thinkers typically found in this freshman class to clarify what is and is not science. Problem solving is emphasized on exams and on group activities. The exams require application of knowledge from readings and lectures to actual environmental problems. Group activities lead students through the maturation of opinion-formation based on scientific approaches. Early in the course, we do an assessment exercise designed by developmental psychologists to determine our relative developmental stage in opinion formation. Later exercises guide students towards becoming mature opinion-makers.
2.Requirements and learning activities that promote students abilities to apply those methods to solve problems that arise in the natural sciences.
Conservation is a problem-solving science. The central problem is sustainability. Students must continually face the question "How can this practice be made sustainable?" Sustainability is multi-faceted (must simultaneously deal with pollution products, resource availability and cost effectiveness) and dynamic (it changes as technology changes). Biological processes, especially photosynthesis and respiration are continually reintroduced and tied into carbon cycles and global processes.
3.Requirements and learning activities that promote students abilities to use inductive reasoning, mathematics, or statistics to solve problems in natural science.
Inductive reasoning is called into play daily in conservation. A continual theme is the extension of local problems onto a global scale, a classic inductive exercise. The text (required reading) follows this general organization, with each environmental problem introduced in terms of scientific principles and general facts. Students are then asked to extend these principles logically and derive the global issues.
4.Requirements and learning activities that promote students abilities to engage in independent and collaborative learning.
Students must exercise independent learning for in-class quizzes and individual exercises (especially media critiques). Collaborative learning is the central function of the two debates. Each group of eleven or twelve students selects researchers, speakers, handlers and organizers. The tasks of the first two are obvious. Handlers call group members and arrange meetings outside of class. Organizers gather the research and arrange the information into material for the speakers' presentations. These exercises emphasize cooperation and collaboration and have always proven successful in this regard. Each team writes a single, multiple choice question for the next exam. The questions from the first debates are notably less reasonable (compared to later efforts). The class reacts to each question when we review the test results and question-quality improves markedly for the second exam.
5.Requirements and learning activities that promote students' abilities to identify, find, and use the tools of information science as it relates to natural science.
The debates rely heavily on the students use of information science and the team success relies on this being done well. Early exercises involve interacting with media presentations and then using primary scientific literature to modify media impressions. We utilize Internet resources critically as I remind them that anyone can put "information" on the Web and we need to determine if it represents good information.
6.Requirements and learning activities that promote students' abilities to critically evaluate both source and content of scientific information.
This is a core theme of the course. As mentioned above, conservation students participate in group activities (debate and other exercises) where information is gathered and compiled from many sources. The quality of the information is readily apparent in the resulting presentation. Critical evaluation is an active and ongoing activity throughout conservation as we develop educated opinions concerning global issues.
7.Requirements and learning activities that promote students' abilities to recognize and correct scientific misconceptions.
The atmosphere in the class is one of positive scepticism. Lecture and required readings are open to discussion and frequently spawn discussion of the scientific merit of widely held beliefs. The debates expose many scientific misconceptions (depending on my topic choice).