2007 GSA Denver Annual Meeting (28–31 October 2007)

Paper No. 10
Presentation Time: 10:35 AM


BINDLER, Richard, Ecology and Environmental Science, Umeå University, Umeå, 901 87, Sweden, richard.bindler@emg.umu.se

The Bologna process aims at harmonizing higher education in Europe. On a practical, departmental level there are two key aspects we have to deal with: 1) the need to redefine or even restructure degree programs to conform to a three-year bachelor's and a two-year master's degree, and 2) the need to write all course syllabi in terms of expected learning outcomes (i.e., Bloom's taxonomy), rather than simply describing topics/themes taken up in a course. The use of learning outcomes simplifies the transfer by students of coursework between universities, but it also introduces a higher level of accountability by academic programs. Although the Bologna process is not specifically relevant for American universities, there can be valuable insights from the work.

At the department level the adaptation process brings with it an unwelcome increase in the number of meetings, but more meaningfully it forces us to re-think and articulate the specific goals of each of our courses and more generally of our programs. In a time of reduced student numbers in the natural sciences and a competitive offering of programs, this restructuring has many potentially valuable outcomes. Although some courses require more serious revision to meet this new structure, most courses can be readily adapted. Even in such cases we have found it a valuable experience to rethink our pedagogical and scientific goals and explicitly define what we want students to learn from a particular course, why we want them to learn this, and how we can best achieve these goals (with available resources).

Although some general insights are related, this presentation focuses on the practical lessons of defining learning outcomes and its affect on a specific course – the Analysis of Environmental Changes, which is advanced-level undergraduate course aimed at developing students' analytical skills and analytical thinking for the assessment of complex environmental problems. The course combines theory in the form of lectures and seminars and application in the form of a student-based research project with a journal-style paper. Our goals in the course have remained consistent over the years, but with Bologna we have progressed from an implicit understanding of our goals to an explicit statement of these in the form of learning outcomes.