Environmental Change (GEO3350a), upper year undergraduate

Fall 2013 & Fall 2014, Department of Geography, Western University

2013 enrolment: 21 undergraduates, 1 graduate student with modified syllabus and assessments

2014 enrolment: 14 undergraduates

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Graphic Syllabus, created by my colleague Dr. Lauren Anstey:

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I redesigned this senior undergraduate course, including the learning outcomes, lectures, teaching and learning activities, and all but one assessment.  Principles of active learning play an important role in the course, and in 2014, I was among the first cohort to teach in Western Active Learning Space (WALS).

Key course topics include:

  • the present climate and other natural environmental systems;
  • the forcing mechanisms that control these systems;
  • the chronology of past environmental changes;
  • the techniques used to reconstruct paleoenvironments (including dating techniques) and
  • anthropogenic (human caused) influences on local and global environments.

Students practice and are assessed on their ability to:

  • communicate scientific information in oral and written form to academic and lay audiences;
  • outline a skeleton environmental change research proposal;
  • articulate natural and anthropogenic agents of environmental change, and explain similarities and differences between environmental changes today and in the past;
  • independently analyze, interpret, and explain key climate science figures, graphs, and maps.

Highlights of responsibilities

  • Used an online pre-course student survey to assess student background knowledge and interests.
  • Promoted student motivation by involving students in the creation of rubric criteria for blog assignment.
  • Accommodated diverse learning styles during lectures by providing hands-on activities, time for reflection, and real-world examples.
  • Accommodated diverse learning styles by providing different pathways to participation grades.
  • Promoted class community by working with students to create an in-class research conference.
  • Provided frequent feedback, on both assessed and unmarked work.

International Field School on Algal Blooms (BIO9439L)

August 2014, Department of Biology, Western University

Enrolment: 9 graduate students, 2 undergraduate students

Instructors: I.F. Creed (Western), A.K. Bergstrom (Umea University), W. Cochlan (San Francisco State University), Molot, L. (York University), Poste, A. (Norwegian Institute for Water Research), Trick, C. (Western), Hundey, E.J. (Western).

This graduate course covers both the science and management of harmful algal blooms at a Research Station in northern Sweden. As program co-ordinator for the ABATE (Algal Bloom Assessment through Science, Technology, and Education) Training Program and as one of seven instructors for this course, I employed both my organizational and instructional skills.

Highlights of Responsibilities

  • Designed and prepared assessments and corresponding rubrics to meet learning outcomes for the course.
  • Designed an authentic group assessment in which students were required to respond to a mock request for proposal relating to an environmental and human health issue. Students with various educational backgrounds worked together to produce a research proposal and community engagement plan which they were required to pitch to “stakeholders” (select instructors).
  • Co-ordinated safety details, travel plans, and a coursepack.
  • Prepared and delivered lectures.

Introduction to Physical Geography (GEO1300b)

Jan. – Apr. 2012, Jan-Apr. 2018, Department of Geography, Western University

Enrolment: 97 undergraduate students (2012), 87 students (2018)

Key topics include fundamentals earth’s system (lithosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere, and cryosphere), and their interconnectedness.  The previous instructor (Dr. James Voogt) generously provided course materials including lecture slides, laboratory activities and assessments, past exams, and the course syllabus.  I used these materials as a starting point from which I modified and added content, and introduced a number of new lectures.

Highlights of responsibilities:

  • Incorporated active learning activities into lectures, ranging from two-minute activities to a fifty-minute ‘get your hands dirty’ soil carousel activity.
  • Supervised up to four teaching assistants for the laboratory and marking components of the course.
  • Provided weekly lessons on the learning management system, including prompting videos, to do lists, learning outcomes, and supportive materials.
  • Designed and incorporated award-winning Photo Reflection Portfolio Assignment.
  • Prepared themed online office hours and set up informational interviews with interested students and geography alumni.
  • Provided both individual and automated feedback on mock exam questions on OWL.

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