General comments about the learning outcomes

The UVM Faculty Senate Committee on Sustainability Learning Outcomes would like your feedback on our DRAFT outcomes (Nov. 1, 2013 version).  Please provide your general comments as a comment/reply to this posting.  There are four learning outcomes, each posted separately.  Please provide specific comments for each within the separate posting.  To leave a comment, Log In (upper right hand corner) with your UVM NetId.  Thanks for your participation.

FYI, the Wiki site for the committee’s work provides related material on our work to develop these outcomes.

http://gened-sustainability.wikispaces.com/

15 Responses to “General comments about the learning outcomes”

  1. Avatar of Deane Wang Deane Wang says:

    From BSAD (posted by Deane)

    There might be opportunities in exploring sustainability and other Gen Ed requirements. For example, one can argue that sustainability has natural synergy with diversity, science and technology. This is particularly relevant for the values category. Has there been any discussion on updating or integrating existing Gen Ed requirements with sustainability focus?

  2. Avatar of Deane Wang Deane Wang says:

    From BSAD (posted by Deane)

    I notice that “ecological” and “environmental” are used interchangeably in the document. Are the learning outcomes more about nature (ecological) or human and nature (environmental)?

  3. Avatar of Deane Wang Deane Wang says:

    From BSAD (posted by Deane)
    Thank you very much for circulating the draft and providing the background information. I like the framing of the learning outcomes document a lot. In particular, it builds a strong argument for the need to explicitly define the outcomes and connects with Our Common Ground.

    I think the four categories make sense. They are the critical success factors for ensuring that the ultimate goal – sustainability of human society – is met.

  4. Student comments from Forum says:

    A student advocated for campus-wide capstone senior projects that could integrate sustainability across disciplines.

  5. Student comments from Forum says:

    A student felt that there was a danger of “greenwashing” in having a sustainability requirement. UVM needs to show that it really serious about sustainability in the curriculum, not just a single class.

  6. Student comments from Forum says:

    A student felt that requiring a course (e.g. D1, D2) is a weak way of implementing these requirements. There will be student resistance to the topic, because the student is being forced to take a course. This approach is much less effective than if the learning outcomes are incorporated into a curriculum or activity. The negative “requirement” becomes the emphasis of the class.

  7. Student comments from Forum says:

    A student felt that the last two learning objectives were the most important (values and personal domain). The privilege issue that comes with being wealthy should be emphasized (a white upper class perspective on environment and sustainability) so that students are aware of other global perspective. In the personal domain, students should have tangible ideas of what they can do to effect change, so they don’t just get depressed… they can make a positive change. Students don’t involve themselves because it is depressing.

  8. Student comments from Forum says:

    A first year student felt that none of her introductory classes (an environmental major) touched on sustainability directly.

  9. Student comments from Forum says:

    The SLO objectives do a good job of being broad, but translating sustainability to more specific activities, plans, and designs would be helpful. The student used the example of his senior design capstone (mechanical engineering) as a good way to make more specific sustainability actions tangible.

  10. Jacques Bailly says:

    Just wanted to echo and affirm the comment that there is no easily applicable definition of what sustainability is. From the bullet points in the document, it seems to be primarily environmental and global thinking, secondarily economic and societal, that includes the long-term for humanity (100 years? 1000 years?) and the planet (1 million years? 1 billion?).

    Also, if it’s to be “outcome-based,” that sounds as if we are asking for competence, not exposure. How do we verify the outcome?

    If it’s not to be a simple course check off, how would it be sensibly negotiated by a Greek major who minors in Art History? What about a math major who minors in studio art? I can imagine how it could be done, but it’s not natural to the disciplines, really. The “easy answer” is that it be a course check-off. Adding extra-curricular options is tantamount to it being a course check-off, and puts a further burden on those students who are under financial strain, because it might take time when they could be earning money.

    This seems in danger of being an “impossible object,” but that in itself should not necessarily deter us. Ideals are impossible to attain.

  11. Laura Hill Bermingham says:

    In the CALS discussion of learning outcomes, there was a concern about how UVM will assess whether students are meeting learning outcomes. The SLO committee is collaborating with the Office of Institutional Research and other Gen Ed committee to work toward an overall assessment of Gen Ed learning outcomes at UVM. In addition, the SLO committee has an assessment subcommittee that will present at a Faculty Senate meeting in Spring 2014.

  12. Laura Hill Bermingham says:

    In the Plant Biology department discussion of the learning outcomes, there were 2 major concerns: (1) sustainability is not explicitly defined and so it may be difficult for advisors to advise students on meeting these learning outcomes, (2) overall dissent regarding the general education framework at UVM (i.e., requriting our students to learn about certain issues that may not be of interest in their respective discipline).

  13. Avatar of bhylee bhylee says:

    One point of discussion at the Nov 19 CEMS meeting concerned whether quantitative reasoning should explicitly be a part of these learning outcomes. Some faculty members suggested that the science and economic components of sustainability require an understanding of numeric data and quantitative evidence. They were encouraged to elaborate on this point by posting their own comments or participating in other feedback mechanisms such as the open forums planned for the Spring semester.

  14. Jim Burgmeier says:

    At the CEMS college meeting on November 19, there was mention of satisfying this general education outcome by requiring students to take a course, probably from an approved list similar to the diversity requirement.

    This is not how the general education proposal was developed nor how it was approved by the Senate. Rather, the UVM curriculum should incorporate enough sustainability “information” that students become aware of it as they carry out their college careers. Requiring additional courses will be a problem for some majors and GenEd was not a list of checkoff boxes.

    • Avatar of Deane Wang Deane Wang says:

      Hi Jim, A student taking an approved course could certainly be ONE way that a CEMS student could meet
      the Learning Outcome, but the committee envisions a variety of mechanisms that could work. One way would
      involve the faculty overseeing a major. They could build the four elements of the Learning Outcomes into
      courses throughout the required curriculum. No one instructor would need to build all the learning outcomes
      into their syllabus. Other ways involve co-curricular activities and possible study abroad programs. — Deane Wang

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