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Environmental Sciences

Overview: 

The ENVS degree program is focused on training students in scientific investigation and quantitative analysis of human interactions with natural systems. The goals of the Bachelor of Environmental Science Degree are to:

• Offer a rigorous science-based preparation for careers in environmental science and related fields;

• Prepare students for graduate studies in environmental science and related fields;

• Facilitate assuming a leadership role in academia, business, government, private organizations, or other career venues;

• Provide the academic tools needed to address fundamental and applied problems related to human-impacted parts of the Earth.

The ENVS degree program provides students with a broad scientific understanding of environmental systems, with sub-plans that allow in-depth study in preferred areas of study. The ENVS program requires all students to complete a defined set of General Education classes, a General Science Core, and Environmental Science Core, and Career Preparation classes. The General Education and General Science Core courses provide the foundation for the Environmental Science Core set of classes that were designed to span the core areas of Environmental Science including Microbiology, Physics, Chemistry, Soil Science, Hydrology, Physical Geology, Pollution Science, and Environmental Risk Assessment. This core set of courses is required for all ENVS majors and provides a common set of skills for all ENVS students.

Expected Learning Outcomes: 
Environmental science is the study of human impacts on natural systems from molecular to global scales. These natural systems include soil, water, air, and ecosystems.
 
The BS degree program in Environmental Sciences is coordinated by the Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science (SWES) providing a strong background in biological, chemical, and physical sciences. All environmental sciences students take a interdisciplinary core curriculum of classes in common.  Sub-plans are in the areas of Biology; Physics and Chemistry; Land, Air and Water; or Society and Environment.
 
 
Expected Learning Outcomes for the BS Environmental Sciences
 
1.  Graduates will have an integrated working knowledge of core scientific disciplines and their application to natural systems and environmental problems. (Examples: the physics, chemistry and biology of soil, water and air with emphasis on sustainability, human health, conservation and preservation of natural resources and the environment).
 
2.   Graduates will be able to characterize environmental systems and apply scientific and mathematical concepts to field and laboratory data to critically evaluate increasingly complex environmental issues at local, regional and global scales.
 
3.  Graduates will be able to design strategies for sustainable management of environmental systems and for the remediation or restoration of degraded environments and human health protection.
 
4.  Graduates will be able to apply the scientific method by forming a hypothesis, designing an experiment using basic environmental quality measurements, site assessments, and statistics to test the hypothesis, and analyzing and interpreting results.
 
5.  Graduates will be able to communicate a scientific understanding of environmental issues and develop sound arguments in writing and oral/visual presentation on technical and non-technical levels.
 
 
 
Assessment Activities: 

Three types of activities are being developed and implemented to assess intended student outcomes while the students are in the program and to assess the program effectiveness and career readiness after student complete the ENVS degree.

Expected Learning Outcomes for the BS Environmental Sciences
 
Learning Outcome 1.  Graduates will have an integrated working knowledge of core scientific disciplines and their application to natural systems and environmental problems. (Examples: the physics, chemistry and biology of soil, water and air with emphasis on sustainability, human health, conservation and preservation of natural resources and the environment).
 
Direct Assessment Methods:
 
Test of foundational knowledge.  This method targets the main foundational knowledge in chemical, physical and biological sciences important in environmental systems.  Performance on exams in core environmental sciences courses, (ENVS 420, environmental physics, ENVS 430, environmental monitoring) will be used as an assessment criteria.  Performance indicator: All students achieve 80% or better on exam questions that test foundational knowledge.
 
Test of knowledge integration.  Identify questions in core environmental science courses that require students to integrate foundational knowledge in environmental systems science.   These questions will be used to assess the degree to which students have been able to integrate environmental systems information.   Performance indicator:  All students achieve 80% or better on knowledge integration exam questions.
 
Indirect Assessment Method:
 
Student Learning Outcomes Self-Assessment.  Students will self-assess their level of understanding of core environmental science foundational knowledge, and level of knowledge integration and degree to which this learning outcome is achieved.  
 
 
Learning Outcome 2.   Graduates will be able to characterize environmental systems and apply scientific and mathematical concepts to field and laboratory data to critically evaluate increasingly complex environmental issues at local, regional and global scales.
 
Direct Assessment Method:
 
Case Study Analysis.  Tests the students ability to assess and critically analyze components of environmental systems.   Student performance is evaluated using a Senior Capstone hazardous waste site case study.  Performance indicator:  All students will achieve a 80% on the Feasibility Study Report.
 
Indirect Assessment Method:
 
Student Learning Outcomes Self-Assessment.  Students will self-assess their ability to characterize and evaluate environmental systems.  
 
Learning Outcome 3.  Graduates will be able to design strategies for sustainable management of environmental systems and for the remediation or restoration of degraded environments and human health protection.
 
Direct Assessment Method:
 
Collaborative skills.  Capacity of students to work in groups to design a preferred site remediation strategy.  Student group performance is evaluated using a Senior Capstone Hazardous Waste Site case study.  Performance indicator:  80% of the student groups will achieve a B on the Feasibility Study Report.
 
Writing Skills.  Capacity of students to work together to write a technical report. Student group performance is evaluated using a Senior Capstone Hazardous Waste Site case study.  Performance indicator:  80% of the student groups will achieve a B on the Feasibility Study Report.
 
Indirect Assessment Method:
 
Student Learning Outcomes Self-Assessment.  Students will self-assess their ability to  design strategies for sustainable management of environmental systems.      
 
 
Learning Outcome 4.  Graduates will be able to apply the scientific method by forming a hypothesis, designing an experiment using basic environmental quality measurements, site assessments, and statistics to test the hypothesis, and analyzing and interpreting results.
 
Direct Assessment Method:
 
Internship Portfolios.  Many of the students complete internships and submit a 10-page Internship Portfolio reflecting on their experience.   Performance Indicator:  rubric is under development.
 
Indirect Assessment Method:
 
Student Learning Outcomes Self-Assessment.  Students will self-assess their ability to design experiments.
 
 
Learning Outcome 5.  Graduates will be able to communicate a scientific understanding of environmental issues and develop sound arguments in writing and oral/visual presentation on technical and non-technical levels.
 
Direct Assessment Method:

Capstone Air Quality Report.  Students write a 5-page report on air quality issues to a non-science audience.  Performance Indicator:  80% of the students will achieve a B on the report.

Indirect Assessment Method:

Student Knowledge Self-Assessment.  Students will self-assess their ability to communicate on environmental issues

 

Assessment Findings: 

Assessment of Learning Outcome 1

Direct Assessment:  

Test of foundational knowledge.  

Capstone ENVS 430, Environmental Monitoring, comprehensive final exam, 17 questions out of 35 total tested foundational knowledge.  An example test question asks students to rank organisms according to their abundance in soil.  Our desired performance indicator is that all students get 80% of the questions correct.  Findings from the Spring 2017 final exam are that on average the students got 69% of the questions correct.  3 of 23 students scored more than 80%.

Environmental Physics, ENVS 420, mid term exam, all 22 questions tested foundational knowledge.  An example test question asks students to determine how temperature responds to change in altitude.  Our desired performance indicator is that all students get 80% of the questions correct.  Findings from the spring 2017 mid-term exam are that 17 of the 19 students scored 80% or better on the exam.  The 2 students who did not achieve 80% scored 78%. 
 
Environmental Physics, ENVS 420, final exam, 21 of 27 total questions tested foundational knowledge.  Our desired performance indicator is that all students get 80% of the questions correct.  Findings from the Spring 2017 exam are that 19 of 19 students scored 80% or better on the 21 foundational knowledge questions.    
 
Test of knowledge integration.  
 
Capstone ENVS 430, Environmental Monitoring, comprehensive final exam, 18 questions out of 35 total tested knowledge integration.  An example test question requires students to analyze a case study and develop a rapid response scheme.  Our desired performance indicator is that all students get 80% of the questions correct.  Findings from this exam are that 13 of the 23 students got 80% of the questions correct and the overall average score on these questions was 83%.
 
Environmental Physics, ENVS 420, final exam Spring 2017, 6 of 27 total questions tested knowledge integration.  An example test question requires students to analyze a case study on planets in other solar systems and provide implications of the results.  Our desired performance indicator is that all students get 80% of the questions correct.  Findings from this exam are that 15 of the 19 students scored 80% or better on the 6 knowledge integration questions.  The 4 students who did not achieve 80% scored between 35-75%.  

Indirect Assessment Method:

Student Learning Outcomes Self-Assessment.  In-progress.    
 

Assessment of Learning Outcome 2

Direct Assessment Method:

Capstone Case Study Analysis (ENVS 430).  Student performance is evaluated using a Senior Capstone hazardous waste site case study.  Performance indicator:  All students will achieve a 80% on the Feasibility Study Report.  Spring 2017: 22 of 22 students scored 80% or better on the Feasibility Study report.
 
Indirect Assessment Method:
 
Student Learning Outcomes Self-Assessment.  In-progress.    
 
 
Assessment of Learning Outcome 3
 
Direct Assessment Method:
 
Collaborative skills.  Student group performance is evaluated using a Senior Capstone hazardous waste site case study.  Performance indicator:  All student groups will achieve a 80% on the Feasibility Study Report.  Spring 2017: 5 of 5 groups scored 80% or better on the Feasibility Study report.
 
Writing Skills.  Student group performance is evaluated using a Senior Capstone hazardous waste site case study.  Performance indicator:  All student groups will achieve a 80% on the Feasibility Study Report.  Spring 2017: 5 of 5 groups scored 80% or better on the Feasibility Study report.
 
Indirect Assessment Method:
 
Student Learning Outcomes Self-Assessment.  In-progress.    
 
 
Assessment of Learning Outcome 4
 
Direct Assessment Method:
 
Internship Portfolios.  Many of the students complete internships and submit a 10-page Internship Portfolio reflecting on their experience.   Performance Indicator:  in-progress
 
Indirect Assessment Method:
 
Student Learning Outcomes Self-Assessment.  In-progress
 
 
Assessment of Learning Outcome 5
 
Direct Assessment Method:

Capstone Air Quality Report.  Students write a 5-page report on air quality issues to a non-science audience.  Performance Indicator:  All students will achieve 80% on the report.  Spring 2017:  22 of 22 students scored 80% or better on the Capstone Air Quality Report.

Indirect Assessment Method:

Student Knowledge Self-Assessment.  In-progress.

 

 

Assessment of Learning Outcomes 3 and 4.

Direct Assessment through exam question evaluation:  

Learning outcomes 3 and 4 are emphasized to a much smaller degree in our actual curriculum.  This has energized a new development of courses in this area partly motivated by feedback from graduates who indicate greater emphasis on site evaluation and reclamation would be of great value in this degree program.  Specific questions associated with these learning outcomes will be incorporated into our assessment process by January 2018.

Assessment through student exit survey data:

Exit survey results  here

Assessment through alumni feedback on knowledge quality:

Graduate feedback here

Assessment of Learning Outcome 5.

Direct Assessment through exam question evaluation:  

Students in ENVS 210 are required to participate in at least 10 small group discussions over the course of the semester.  There are two components, first an individual background paper on the current environmental issue discussion topic and second, the development of a group pitch that is presented to the class.

Scores for ENVS students in ENVS 210 in Spring 2017 are as follows:

Individual papers:

Group pitches:

Change in Response to Findings: 

During the summer of 2016 following the APR review which motivated discussions about our underutilized assessment program we revised our expected learning outcomes from 8 to 5.  They are listed above.  Learning outcomes 3 and 4 have to do with analysis of site characteristics and remediation.  Most of our curriculum addresses learning outcomes 1 and 2.  This year several faculty in conjunction with new faculty hires have proposed a new emphasis area in site assessment and remediation.  This has led to development of 2 new courses titled: 

ENVS 480/580 - Environmental Assessment

ENVS 482/582 - Reclamation and Redevelopment of Impacted Lands

These courses directly address learning outcomes 3 and 4 in a holistic way and excerpts from student projects associated with these classes will be sampled to assess our progress in supporting this area of our stated mission.

Updated date: Tue, 06/20/2017 - 10:41