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Environmental Science 1
The Human Impact on the Natural World
Course Syllabus 

InstructorOffice HoursCourse LocationCourse Objectives
Required TextbooksWeb Sites You Must VisitLearning ContractAttendance and Timeliness
Course OutlineAssignment PhilosophyAssignment SummaryDetails of Assignments
GradingSaturday MeetingsVideo AssignmentsVideo Worksheets
Writing TipsWriting Scoring GuideOral Presentation GuideAssessing Your Own Work

Assignments Philosophy - The Portfolio

ALL assignments should be typed, using 11 or 12 point fonts, double-spaced, and with 1-inch margins all around. Each assignment should have a cover page clearly identifying the class and the assignment. Use recycled paper and print on both sides (including the cover sheet) if you can. Contact the instructor if you need to know how to get recycled paper or how to print on both sides.

The main goal of this class is to create an environment in which you can practice thinking critically about your life and your world. One of the reasons why you came back to school, whether explicitly or implicitly, is to develop your "intellect." Most people don’t develop their intellect – they are not in charge of their thinking or their ideas. They use intellect to justify infantile, egocentric, and destructive behaviors. For example, we all rationalize our use of resources (our cars, boats, planes, etc.). We need our car to get to work. But if we are truly thinking "critically," we would have to conclude that in order to preserve our health and the health of others, we must live closer to where we work and work only in ways that support our health and planet. But we don’t. Instead, we unconsciously pick up what people around us think, what is on television or in the movies, or from the families we were raised in. We are products of a process we did not select.

To change these things, we must work to think consciously, deliberately, and skillfully if we are to take charge of the ideas that run one’s life.

Whenever you are doing an assignment for this class, whether inside the classroom or out, constantly ask yourself, would an outside observer watching you closely conclude that you were engaged in "taking charge of your mind, your ideas, and your thinking?" Or would they conclude that you were merely going through the motions of doing an assignment and trying to get by with the minimum possible. It is obvious which observation suggests critical thinking.

The Process

You will build a "portfolio" of work for this class. There is work due for each class session. You must come to class with the work completed in order to effectively participate in the activities planned for the session. The goal of the portfolio is to amass evidence of your ability to think and reason critically about the world around you and your participation in it. "Evidence" is something that makes something "evident." Always ask yourself, "what does my writing make "evident?"

Examples of flaws in reasoning:

  • When you write sentences that can be interpreted in many different ways, you make evident that you are thinking in a vague way.
  • When you do not give concrete examples and illustrations to make your point clear, you make evident that you do not know how to clarify your thought.
  • When you do not make clear, with appropriate transitional words and critical vocabulary, the logical relations between the sentences you write, you make evident that you are not thinking in terms of the logic of your thought, that you do not fully understand the structure of your own reasoning.
  • When you do not analyze key concepts and demonstrate how they apply to the subject or to your life, you make evident that you are weak at conceptual analysis.
  • When you do not reference your work, giving appropriate credit in the form of in-text citations, you make evident that you are unclear as to the sources of your work and are not holding yourself accountable for your information.

We will form small groups in the class. For each class, the groups will read and critique each other’s papers. One paper will be selected from each group for presentation to the class. From the discussion, everyone has the opportunity to correct their work and improve their reasoning if needed.



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Copyright (c) 2009, Jackie A. Giuliano Ph.D.