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ASMCUE 2009 Abstract

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The impact of student background on collaborative and reflective learning in a large undergraduate introductory environmental studies class

T.C. Balser
Department of Soil Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Environmental Science 101, Forum on the Environment at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is typical of many introductory Environmental Studies classes; the class satisfies science requirements for non-scientists and serves students with a remarkably broad range of backgrounds. At UW Madison, ES101 has between 150-250 students in their 1st to 5th years, and spanning more than 50 majors. These types of introductory environmental studies classes play an important role in helping a wide range of students assess information, understand issues and make decisions related to current environmental concerns. They are arguably a critical part of a liberal education. In this study we were interested in gaining a better understanding of how student background, specifically level in school and major-discipline, influenced student learning in ES101. Students in class worked in collaborative teams and were asked throughout the semester to reflect on their learning and to rate the importance of their group, the readings, or other classes in their learning. From survey data we found that the number and type of environmental issues that concern students, and student ranking of an issue’s global versus national importance were affected by level in school, major-discipline, and number of previous science courses taken. We also saw changes in the source of information that students claimed as important to their learning. By the fourth week of the semester students began to rate their groups and other courses as important in their learning, in addition to the speakers and readings for class. We also saw that students consistently report that they learn more from multimedia presentations of information – classes and assignments with video appeared to have a more lasting impact than “typical” Powerpoint lectures. Finally, the students seemed to benefit from collaboration with their peers and spoke of increased confidence in discussing the environment with their friends or family. We believe that the use of collaborative teams in class, and deliberately asking students to reflect on sources of learning were important in helping students succeed.  

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Viewing 4 of 4 comments: view all
Teri, Looks very ice. I have no specific comments to make. : )
Posted 16:46, 16 Feb 2009
Looks great. It is easy to read and follow! See you in May. sherri
Posted 11:27, 17 Feb 2009
Hi Teri,
Your abstract looks good to me. I think it would be helpful if you can be more specific in the sentence beginning "From the survey data ...." e.g. were students with more School / science experience more or less concerned with environmental issues.
Posted 18:29, 17 Feb 2009
Thank you!
Chris I agree - but at the moment am right at the character limit and can't think of a simple way to add more. I'll see if reviewers are OK with it, and add specifics if they need me to...
Posted 09:59, 19 Feb 2009
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