WATER QUALITY WITHIN THE UPPER MISSISSINEWA RIVER OF EAST-CENTRAL INDIANA: A CROSS-COLLEGE COLLABORATION ENHANCING PUBLIC UNDERSTANDING OF SCIENCE THROUGH IMMERSIVE LEARNING
This second iteration of this hybrid model of classroom and research immersion concentrated on the Mississinewa watershed of East-Central Indiana with a particular interest in nutrient flux and the impact of logjams in the river channel. Students were assessed via five metrics: 1) a field notebook, 2) the professionalism of their deliverables, 3) a draft for a Lake And River Enhancement Program grant for the community partner and landowners, 4) a peer evaluation rubric, and 5) a five-page synthesis report connecting their experiences to environmental research and multimedia production. Students enhanced a website (http://www.waterqualityin.com) designed to house scientific and media deliverables, including graphs of water chemistry, charts of sediment flux, interactive graphics, and stakeholder interviews.
Methods utilized for assessment of learning outcomes include pre-and post-test questionnaires, a ‘document the river’ exercise that blended scientific and media concepts, field notebook evaluation, and qualitative trends identified through focus group coding. Aggregate pre- and post-test data from the first iteration of this immersive-learning course (Fall 2013) revealed interesting trends: Declarative knowledge of science and media concepts decreased (10/15 questions) and increased (14/15 questions), respectively. Notably, students’ overall perceived confidence increased from pre- to post-test, with a smaller range, in both fields, despite more wrong answers in science concepts. Student commentary reinforced the value of process-oriented learning. Assessment data from the second iteration of the course are currently under review and will be compared with earlier findings.