Skip to main content
Log in

Applying the process of backward design in revising an environmental science program

  • Published:
Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

The purpose of this article is to share our model of a successful curriculum reform process and provide an overview so that it can be replicated by other programs. The process of backward design is commonly used for course design, and here we apply this framework to a program-level revision of student learning outcomes, curriculum, and assessment. Graduates from our Environmental Science program are expected to demonstrate an understanding of the appropriate academic content, to be able to conduct research and develop professional behaviors and dispositions. Our revised program now has clear, assessable student learning outcomes, a set of coursework that is well aligned with these outcomes, and planned assessment that will allow us to evaluate our students and our program. This program revision has been a long, time-consuming process that has been facilitated by the cooperative nature and dedication of the individuals on the Environmental Science committee and by support structures at our institution. We will discuss the methods used by our program to bring about these changes and also the challenges we faced.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

References

  • Alstete JW (2004) Accreditation matters: achieving academic recognition and renewal. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report. Volume 30, Issue 4. ERIC

  • Anderson LW, Krathwohl DR, Bloom BS (2001) A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: a revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. Allyn & Bacon

  • Briggs CL (2007) Curriculum collaboration: a key to continuous program renewal. Ohio State University Press

  • Cohen AR, Glavin WF, Moore TE, Allen SA, Zolner JP (2003) Transformational change at Babson College notes from the firing line. Acad Manag Learn Educ 2:155–180

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cohen AR, Fetters M, Fleischmann F (2005) Major change at Babson college: curricular and administrative, planned and otherwise. Adv Dev Hum Resour 7:324–337

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Devine SM, Daly K, Lero D, MacMartin C (2007) Designing a new program in family relations and applied nutrition. New Dir Teach Learn 2007:47–57. doi:10.1002/tl.297

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Harris J, Sansom D (2001) Discerning is more than counting. An AALE scholars essay. AALE Occasional Papers in Liberal Education

  • Hill A (2007) Continuous curriculum assessment and improvement: a case study. New Dir Teach Learn 2007:33–45. doi:10.1002/tl.296

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hubball H, Gold N (2007) The scholarship of curriculum practice and undergraduate program reform: integrating theory into practice. New Dir Teach Learn 2007:5–14. doi:10.1002/tl.293

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jenkins A (2003) Designing a curriculum that values a research-based approach to student learning in Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (GEES) Planet:2–4

  • Lee VS, Hyman MR, Luginbuhl G (2007) The concept of readiness in the academic department: a case study of undergraduate education reform. Innov High Educ 32:3–18

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lopatto D (2007) Undergraduate research experiences support science career decisions and active learning. CBE-Life Sci Educ 6:297–306

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Massy WF, Wilger AK, Colbeck C (1994) Departmental cultures and teaching quality: overcoming “hollowed” collegiality change. Mag High Learn 26:11–20

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nilson LB (2009) The graphic syllabus and the outcomes map: communicating your course vol 137. John Wiley & Sons

  • Oliver SL, Hyun E (2011) Comprehensive curriculum reform in higher education: collaborative engagement of faculty and administrators. J Case Stud Educ 2:1–20

    Google Scholar 

  • Roy D, Borin P, Kustra E (2007) Assisting curriculum change through departmental initiatives. New Dir Teach Learn 2007:21–32. doi:10.1002/tl.295

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Russell SH, Hancock MP, McCullough J (2007) Benefits of undergraduate research experiences. Science (Washington) 316:548–549

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Shapiro DF (2003) Facilitating holistic curriculum development. Assess Eval High Educ 28:423

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Uchiyama KP, Radin JL (2009) Curriculum mapping in higher education: a vehicle for collaboration. Innov High Educ 33:271–280

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wall AF, Hursh D, Rodgers JW III (2014) Assessment for whom: repositioning higher education assessment as an ethical and value–focused social practice. Res Pract Assess 9:5–17

    Google Scholar 

  • Weaver GC, Russell CB, Wink DJ (2008) Inquiry-based and research-based laboratory pedagogies in undergraduate science. Nat Chem Biol 4:577–580

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Whetten DA (2007) Principles of effective course design: what I wish I had known about learning-centered teaching 30 years ago. J Manag Educ 31:339–357

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wiggins GP, McTighe J (2005) Understanding by design. Ascd

  • Wolf P (2007) A model for facilitating curriculum development in higher education: a faculty-driven, data-informed, and educational developer–supported approach. New Dir Teach Learn 2007:15–20. doi:10.1002/tl.294

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zelenitsky S, Vercaigne L, Davies NM, Davis C, Renaud R, Kristjanson C (2014) Using curriculum mapping to engage faculty members in the analysis of a pharmacy program. Am J Pharm Educ 78:1–9

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Caralyn B. Zehnder.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Zehnder, C.B., Manoylov, K., Mutiti, C. et al. Applying the process of backward design in revising an environmental science program. J Environ Stud Sci 7, 264–273 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13412-015-0356-3

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13412-015-0356-3

Keywords

Navigation