GSA Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington, USA - 2017

Paper No. 311-1
Presentation Time: 8:10 AM


POUND, Kate S., Atmospheric & Hydrologic Sciences, St. Cloud State University, 720 Fourth Avenue South, St. Cloud, MN 56301 and BRATT, Kirstin R., Academic Learning Center, St. Cloud State University, Saint Cloud, MN 56301,

Both authors participated in a small (four-person) Faculty Learning Community (FLC) as part of a multi-year Professional Development opportunity. We met regularly during the first semester to learn about Backward Design (UbD), and plan our implementation and assessment of its efficacy. In the second semester we continued to meet as we implemented Backward Design to discuss our challenges and successes, as well as write reflections. Four years later we all continue to use Backward Design as a cornerstone of our curriculum development, because of its demonstrated efficacy. The unanticipated outcome was the connection made by two participants (Pound & Bratt), which ultimately led to us proposing a truly interdisciplinary course ‘Geology and Poetry’, which we designed from the ground up using the principles of Backward Design.

In Backward Design one first identifies Enduring Understandings - concepts we want the students to take with them, remember, and apply in the months and years ahead. Essential Questions are then identified; these are open-ended questions which frame and reflect the Enduring Understandings, and are used to engage students. It is only then that one creates assessments that will provide convincing evidence that students can understand and apply the Enduring Understandings. The final stage is planning of appropriate class activities.

Our challenge in designing and implementing this course was not only a rigorous dedication to the methodology of Backward Design, but to effectively pair Enduring Understandings from both geology and literary analysis / poetry. Our method was somewhat messy; although we attempted to be objective through independent development of Enduring Understandings, we continually brainstormed possible pairings. For example, Pound developed a series of Enduring Understandings for ‘classic’ geological topics – plate tectonics, volcanoes, earthquakes, geologic time, and oceanography. Bratt did the same for aspects of both poetic form and literary analysis –sonnets, haikus, myths, the Burke Pentad. We then paired our Enduring Understandings in a manner that not only connected the ‘essence’ of each discipline, but simultaneously followed a logical progression within each discipline. Our final challenge was selecting materials, and structuring our class meetings effectively.