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Volume 47 Issue 1, May 2018
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Course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) have been developed to overcome barriers including students in research. However, there are few examples of CUREs that take place in a conservation and natural resource context with students engaging in field research. Here, we highlight the development of a conservation-focused CURE integrated to a research program, research benefits, student self-assessment of learning, and perception of the CURE. With the additional data, researchers were able to refine species distribution models and facilitate management decisions. Most students reported gains in their scientific skills, felt they had engaged in meaningful, real-world research. In student reflections on how this experience helped clarify their professional intentions, many reported being more likely to enroll in graduate programs and seek employment related to science. Also interesting was all students reported being more likely to talk with friends, family, or the public about wildlife conservation issues after participating, indicating that courses like this can have effects beyond the classroom, empowering students to be advocates and translators of science. Field-based, conservation-focused CUREs can create meaningful conservation and natural resource experiences with authentic scientific teaching practices.
Instructional scaffolding employs a variety of instructional techniques that move students progressively toward stronger understanding and greater independence in the learning process. The objective of this study was to develop a scaffolding instructional module focused on forest floor for the second-year Introduction to Soil Science course at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Canada. The scaffolding module included a campus-based lecture; online multimedia material in the Forest Floor educational resource; campus-based, instructor-led demonstrations of forest floor description and classification; campus-based, collaborative, hands-on activity; written instructions provided in the laboratory manual; an individual written assignment; and a self-guided activity (or quest) performed on the university campus aided by a mobile game application. These forms of support were gradually removed as students developed independent learning strategies, culminating in the self-guided activity that led students to a forest on the university campus to practice their newly developed skills in forest floor description and classification. The scaffolding components were developed to foster intellectual inquiry and analysis, group problem-solving, and the application of knowledge to complex issues in a real-life setting. This could serve as a model for future educational design in post-secondary courses in the natural sciences.
Scientific conferences build professional skills and identity in undergraduate students and provide opportunities for developing professional social skills, a sense of belonging to their field, and an understanding of potential career options. However, undergraduate student attendance at professional conferences is low. When undergraduate students do attend, they often express anxiety associated with speaking with professionals, networking, or with the conference environment. To address these concerns, instructors from several institutions collaborated to develop an undergraduate course with the objective of training students to attend their first professional conference and then traveled with them to experience a conference. The course framework involved meetings with students and course assignments before, during, and after the conference. Assessment results indicated that student outcomes included a greater sense of belonging to their profession, social benefits, gains in confidence, career confirmation, and an improved understanding of the pathways to pursuing a career in this field (i.e., importance of undergraduate research, gaining experience during college, etc.). Our results suggest that formal preparation for attendance at a national scientific meeting maximizes the potential for students to benefit from their experience and reduces the anxiety many students express about attending a professional conference.
Students who have completed the Soil Nutrient Relationships course at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln often contact instructors once they have begun full-time work, seeking reminders of specific concepts. These students either did not take or keep detailed notes during the course. To assist students, instructors have developed a portfolio requirement for the course. One important learning objective from each recitation exercise was summarized as deliverable knowledge in the student’s portfolio. Feedback was then provided on portfolio components each week with resubmission encouraged, so that students leave with accurate information in their own words. The objective of this article is to summarize the details of the portfolio assignment used in Soil Nutrient Relationships to assist other instructors in developing student assignments and assessments. Following completion of the knowledge portfolio, students were surveyed with more than 75% response rate in both the 2016 and 2017 semesters. More than 44% of respondents agreed that they thought they would use the portfolio in their future work, and more than 15% of respondents agreed that the portfolio would be the most important component of class toward their future work.
This study assesses outreach effectiveness for particular populations and audiences’ media preferences for learning about water issues and examines preferences for additional information on particular water resource topics, including possible trends in information sources related to socio-demographic changes from 2008 to 2014. City and municipal water districts reached the greatest number of people with 68.2% of those surveyed and 73.9% of respondents living within city limits (p < 0.0001) receiving water information from these sources. Protecting drinking water supplies (57.4%) and water management for home and garden landscaping (55.8%) were the water resource topics of greatest interests to respondents. Interest in the home and garden landscaping topic increased from 34.1% in 2008 to almost 60% in 2014. This study reports water resource topical areas of greatest interest and preferred methods for reaching various demographic groups, including the growing urban sector. This information is critically important to financially limited organizations disseminating water resource information, including extension, environmental agencies and groups, and cities and water districts, as they seek to efficiently encourage the public to adopt appropriate water resource management and water conservation practices.
A graphic syllabus that enables students to visualize the “big picture” of the soil science course can be an addition to the traditional course syllabus. The purpose of this study was to develop the graphic syllabus and test it in an introductory soil science course. The graphic syllabus was based on the principles of “parallel” teaching/learning and storytelling. It was created by dividing the course into three units: (1) Soil ABC’s, (2) Soil properties, and (3) Soil fertility and management. Each unit contains a set of soil orders with a list of corresponding state/representative soils in the United States. Clemson University students from various fields (forestry, wildlife biology, and environmental science) compared traditional and graphic syllabi. Students were asked to complete a survey consisting of questions related to their opinions of traditional and graphic syllabi. Responses to the survey questions indicated that most students were juniors and almost never experienced (97%) graphic syllabi in their college courses. Most students preferred the graphic syllabus in addition to a traditional one. Students reported that the graphic syllabus helped them better understand the course structure and was more exciting and easier to view on cell phones. Although the use of a graphic syllabus is usually limited to introductory courses, it can also be adapted to upper-level soil science courses. This article offers an organizational strategy for expediting the graphic syllabus design.
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