Fernando Riosmena

Geography and Population Program

Course context: As I mentioned in my application, I did not teach during the spring 2012 semester. My plan then was to design a sensible assessment of a new course I will teach during the Fall 2012 semester (GEOG-2002, Geographies of Global Change) while using the experience of my colleagues in Geography (particularly of one that taught a similar course) in the institute as a guide to what could potentially work and what might not.
GEOG-2002 is a large introductory survey course (~300-400 students) aimed to acquaint students with the discipline of Geography (and, I would argue, spatial thinking) that also satisfies one of CU’s Minimum Academic Preparation Standards (MAPS) requirements. The latter means two things. First, the course has to promote students’ knowledge of the diversity and complexity of world beyond the U.S. borders so they become better-informed “global citizens.” Second, and perhaps going without a say in a course as large as this, this means student engagement is typically a challenge given that many of them have to but may not want to be there. I considered both of these issues when designing class objectives and assessment techniques. As such, the sample syllabus and pre-, immediate, and post-assessment materials included in this report have not been tested yet, but they are informed by the theory discussed during the first part of the workshop and guided by the practical experience of two of my colleagues (I say partially because they did not try every tool I want to use, but they did guide my tool choice to a large extent).

Target of improvement/evidence:
1. To understand the students’ level of prior engagement their general study habits, learning techniques, and time use. This would allow me to potentially adjust content delivery techniques and course activities. 
Proposed activities: pre- survey.
2. To improve and systematize my understanding of students baseline knowledge about the course’s main subject matter and to track the evolution of this knowledge and interest throughout and by the end of the semester. This would be useful to assess their understanding of threshold concepts vital to the course (see threshold concept list below). 
Proposed activities: pre- and post-surveys.
3. To regularly assess student comprehension and learning of the concepts included in the readings and in-class activities (lectures, discussion) in order to allow me to adjust my teaching according to student feedback, improve my response time to said feedback, and create a steady learning environment that is responsive to students’ needs and that is recognized as so by them. 
Proposed activities: D2L/clicker quizzes/polls (after class and in-class, respectively); case studies, discussion questions, and debates (during recitations).
4. To improve the level of communication with students with regards to my expectations of what constitutes a good job during the course and in the different assignments, which would reduce the uncertainty surrounding how grading works in the class and, more, importantly, to provide ways to model thinking and avoid bottlenecks, especially in threshold concepts. 
Proposed activities: sample exam questions, low-stakes writing exercises, grading rubric for final paper
5. To facilitate effective (e.g.,active) learning by increasing student interaction and engagement in the course, particularly during recitations. 
Proposed activities: debates/break-out groups (recitations); clicker polls (in-class); online extra credit activities
1. [CORE OBJECTIVE] To introduce students to the discipline of Geography and to the spatial thinking perspective. More specifically, to improve their understanding of:
a. The concepts of place and space and the difference between them and that of interconnectedness and translocality.
b. The concepts of scale and zoning (e.g., how social processes may operate at different levels of aggregation; how geographic boundaries are set and why sometimes they may not be useful as units of analysis).
c. The history and idea behind our thinking of specific spaces as “regions”(e.g., Southeast Asia, the Great Plains, Latin America, Central Europe, West Africa).
d. The role of place in defining how different social processes take place and how trans local exchanges define places and how social processes operate, with a particular emphasis on phenomena of global relevance, including our understanding of globalization (see Objective 2).
2. [IMPORTANT OBJECTIVE] To understand the concept of, limits, and critiques to globalization and the basics of global changes in the political economy; demography; urbanization and migration; climate change and vulnerability.
3. [WORTHWHILE OBJECTIVE] To improve their knowledge of different regions of the world, and why we understand these as conceptual entities.

Threshold concepts (in approximate order of abstraction): Place, Space, Translocality/interconnectedness, Spatial dependence, Counterfactual, Unintended Consequences, Scale, Zoning, Region, Cluster, Globalization, Vulnerability, Political Economy.

Course objectives:
The objectives of the course are then the following (I also include comments on the type of objective or concept this is in my view):

Plans: In the next few lines, I describe the class activities I will include in the class (which I believe serve the purpose of assessing) and the assessment techniques I am proposing to gauge student learning. Note that the completion of these assessments is an important part of the student grade.

A. ACTIVITIESPROPOSEDAFTERFIRSTPARTOFWORKSHOP:

Class activities:
Mid-term exam 25% Final exam 25% Final paper 25% Low-stakes papers (on case studies aimed to improve learning of threshold concepts) 10% Day-to-day learning assessments (polls, one-minute papers) 10% Other (e.g., interactive) participation activities, open participation 5%

B. ADJUSTMENTS MADE AFTER THE SEMESTER ENDED, TALKED TO COLLEAGUES:

Class activities:
Mid-term exam 25% Final exam 25% 1 final paper (case studies aimed to improve learning of threshold concepts) 10% Low stakes writing (2 assignments, with one revision each) 10% Regular in-class and online learning assessments (polls, quizzes, etc.) 10% Other (e.g., interactive) participation activities, open participation in recitations 20%
Note: Based on the experience of other colleagues, I decided to lower the weight of the final paper and emphasize low-stakes writing with 2 assignments (allowing students 1 revision per assignment) but have two shorter assignments (low-stakes papers) where students will turn in first, get feedback, and then turn in revisions.

Learning assessment activities:
1. Baseline and follow-up data collection: I have designed a baseline survey to measure: general student understanding/expectations of the discipline, some of the (more basic) threshold concepts; of the students’ general background and their level of interest and a priori engagement. Further, I will follow up with a similar survey at the middle and end of the semester (during exam reviews, or as part of the FCQ evaluation). See Appendix I for survey.
2. Regular learning assessments: as in the past, I will give students examples of good discussion questions to think about when going through the required readings in order to gauge their understanding of what constitutes a good inquiry about them (and to see if they get the main point of the reading well enough to ask good questions about it) and to clarify muddy points. This has worked well in the past in smaller classes and I anticipate it will with the help of teaching assistants. See examples of discussion questions for two different readings assigned in class
3. Ex-post day-to-day learning assessments: I will also ask students to write one-minute papers and response to clicker polls (or polls in Desire2Learn) after class to gauge their understanding of the material covered during the session (or during recitations as well). See Appendix II for sample questions related to two different class topics.
4. Case studies for threshold concepts: I will choose a few case studies in order to improve student understanding of some of the main threshold concepts of the course, such as place/space, translocality, and scale and zoning.
5. Model thinking, improve communication of expectations: I will do this in three main ways:

a. Low-stakes writing, to model good writing habits in students before waiting until it is too late to do much about it (i.e., the final paper at the end of the semester). See appendix III for a sample of a low stakes paper.
b. Exam preparation through sample exam questions. I will discuss a few sample questions and point out how these fit the course objectives and the reasoning behind how to answer them. See Appendix IV for sample exam questions.
c. Paper assessment rubric, paper preparation. In addition to providing a grading rubric in all larger course activities (which helps students understand the elements I use for grading and what constitute a well-executed assignment, see Appendix V for sample final paper rubric), I will also attempt to do the exercise of showing them three papers of varying quality (A, B, and C paper, or even an F-grade paper) in order for them to see more directly what constitutes a well-executed assignment. I do not have good examples of these papers yet.

6. Interactive, active learning activities: During class, I will also use clicker poll questions to motivate student engagement by asking them to express their opinion about a given issue before discussing it and to gauge their understanding of a concept discussed in prior classes (to see how much a concept “sticks”). Further, during recitations, we will hold break-out group discussions and debates during recitations based on the readings discussion questions.

Appendix I – Baseline (early enough, but not first class?) and follow-up survey
1. Sex 

a. Male 
b. Female
2. Age
a.
19 or less b. 20 c. 21 d. 22 e. 23 or more
years
3.How many years have been in college prior to this one?

a. 0 b. 1 c. 2 d. 3 e. 4+
4. Have you taken college-level Geography courses before?
a. Yes 
b. No
5. Are you a Geography major?
a. Yes
b. No, but may become one
c. No, and no plans to become one
6. Is your major undeclared?
a. Yes
b. No
would you say is the main reason you are taking this course?
c. General requirement
Specific requirement for my major
Interested in learning a bit more about Geography Don’t know
8. How interested are you in Geography?
a. Very interested
b. Somewhat interested
c. Only a little interested
d. Not interested at all
e. I don’t know
9. Which of these words would you say describes Geography best?
a. Maps
b. People
c. Places
d. The environment
e. Culture
10. Which of these words would you say describes Geography second best?
a. Maps
b. People
c. Places
d. The environment
e. Culture
11. How many hours a week of off-class, off-recitation work do you think people are supposed to devote to a single college-level class?
a. Less than 3
b. 3to5
c. 5to8
d. 8 or more
[ONLY FOR EX-POST SURVEY]
12. Compared to the beginning of the semester, your level of interest in Geography has...
a. ...increased

b. ...stayed the same as it was
c. ...decreased
13. What is the most interesting thing you learnt in this class?
a. Translocality/inter-dependence

b. Scale-zoning
c. Interesting facts about different parts of the world Other
d. None
14. I remember what are the learning objectives for this class set at the beginning of the semester
a. True
b. False

15. Preparing for the exams were useful to allow me to learn more about the topic of the class
a. True b. False
16. I did the required readings prior to class...
a. ...most of the time/always 
b. ....occasionally 
c. ...never
17. The clicker quizzes and polls allowed me to better reflect on the concepts discussed in the 
readings and during class a. True 
b. False
18. I found the short papers to be a useful preparation for the final paper 
a. True 
b. False
19. The final paper helped me learn more about the class topics 
a. True 
b. False
20. The final paper helped me improve the way I prepare essays and will be useful for future classes 
and other endeavors a. True 
b. False

Appendix II – Sample discussion questions for readings
Read the following questions and think about them while reading the assigned piece.
From Quiñones, S. (“Atolinga”)
1. WhathappenedtoChonSalinas’ideasaboutreturningtoAtolinga?IfChon’sexperiencewas typical of migrants from Atolinga/Mexico, what implications do you think this has for development in Atolinga? In Mexico? In the U.S.?
2. Which core concepts of the course do you think the Quinones reading highlights and why?
3. What additional questions did you think when reading Quinones’ piece that were not answered by the piece?
From Conover, T. (“Trucking through the AIDS Belt”) and Bongaarts, J. (“The End of HIV?”)
1. What role do you think transportation and trade networks in the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa based on the readings by Conover and Bongaarts?
2. Which core concept(s)of the course do you think the Conover reading high lights and why?
3. Was there any part of the Conover reading that was not clear to you?

Appendix III – Sample low stakes paper
You have been hired as a consultant for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to help solve the issue of poverty in either L. America, Sub-saharan Africa, or S. Asia. Based on the readings by Sen, De Soto, Adepoju, and Sachs, write a short essay discussing how would you go about reducing poverty in either of these regions. Incorporate the concepts of scale, translocality/inter- connectedness, or path dependency in your essay.

Appendix IV – Sample exam questions and proposed discussion
Answer the following sample exam questions, state why do you think this is the an answer, and which of the class’ learning objectives or core concepts it might satisfy best (if you do not think it satisfies any of the class objectives, state this as well please).
1. While the mortality transition in less developed countries occurred ______ than it did in industrialized nations, it did so at a _______ pace.
a. Earlier; slower.
b. Earlier;faster.
c. Later; slower.
d. Later;faster.
2. Which world of the following has been a more important factor of fertility decline in most of the?
a. Modern contraceptive technology
b. Abortion
3. Modernization theory was partially wrong as an explanation of the Demographic Transition: mortality and fertility decline did occur in the absence of increases in income in many countries. 
 a. True 
b. False
4. The carrying capacity of the earth can be characterized as relatively static: there is a finite number of people earth can support and, once we reach this limit, population growth will halt by way of several Malthusian checks. 
a. True 
b. False
5. WhichofthefollowingeventsmarkedthebeginningofthedemiseoftheISImodel?
a. The end of WWII
b. The Great Depression
c. The Great 2008 Mortgage Crisis
d. The 1973 Oil Crisis
e. The fall of the U.S.S.R.
6. Which two trends were instrumental to the acceleration of urbanization in LAC?

a. Land reform and the decline of the in formal labor market
b. ISI policies and rural-urban migration
c. Land reform and fertility decline
d. The decline of the informal labor market and ISI
7. According to DeSoto, the rapid growth of the informal economy in many L. American cities is mainly explained by: 

a.Massive migration from the country side and the inflexibility of the bureaucratic system
b.Corruption of government officials and massive migration from the country side

c.The in flexibility of the bureaucracy and corruption of government officials
8. NAFTA has helped reduce geographic income inequality in Mexico (e.g. between the North and the South). 
a. True 
b. False
2. The geography of drug-related violence in Mexico can be better explained by...
a. ...the fight for distribution channels and production areas.
b. ...socioeconomic inequality across places.

3.While NAFTA has had a moderately positive effect (in terms of job creation) for the agricultural sector in Mexico, it has been a success story in creating manufacturing jobs. a. True b. False

Appendix V – Final paper rubric
GEOG-2002 Fall 2012 Guidelines for final project
The purpose of the final project is for you to describe and critically-analyze a specific issue of your interest related to human geography/global change in a given place (country) or places (within any region or country of the world). You can potentially choose a couple and do comparative work, though it might be wise to include a maximum of two places/settings while justifying this choice in some substantive way. The issue you can choose is pretty open and can relate to, but is not limited to the demographic transition, aging, fertility, mortality/health, internal/international migration, urbanization issues, or the relationship between population and environment/resources, development, globalization, poverty/inequality, race, gender, education (or human capital formation in general), etc.

Due dates
Proposal guidelines
Proposal due Oct. 28, 2012 Paper due Dec. 7, 2012
Write a one-page, double-spaced proposal that includes the following: 1) Preliminary title
2) Problem statement
3) A short description what you are going to do in this paper 4) Bibliography with at least 3 reliable sources (see below)
Paper guidelines
(0.5 points) (1.0 points) (0.5 points)
. 1) Maximum 10 pages double-spaced. Papers over 10 pages will not be accepted!
. 2) Bibliography should include at least 6 sources, including at least 3 journal articles. If you choose to use internet sites, make sure that these are reliable sources (no Wikipedia/ Yahoo/ Answers/ blogs).
Resources
For how to find articles and cite sources, see: http://ucblibraries.colorado.edu/how/index.htm
Grading
Paper proposal 2 points, based scale above and 2% of your final grade Paper 25 points, based on scale below and 18% of your final grade
Grading rubric for paper assignment
Problem statement and context. Strong problem statement, context information provided to show why issue is important.
Use of evidence. Primary source information to support every point, sources support argument.
Logic and argumentation. All ideas flow logically, argument is identifiable, logical and sound.
Mechanics. Section structure, excellent grammar, no typos.
Sources. Use of at least 6 reliable sources, 3 of which need to be journal articles. Sources referenced correctly in bibliography and text.

 

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