IS 337 Hawaiian Culture and Nature: A History of Invasions
TEACHING PHILOSOPHY AND STRUCTURE OF THE COURSE
This course uses a philosophy that is a composite of three principles of effective teaching and learning. First, the instructors believe that students need to be challenged and to go beyond preconceived ideas and previously used methods. In this course, students must expand their current ideas about people from different cultures and their current attitudes about the academic disciplines of biology and anthropology. In addition, students are challenged to learn and use new methods of academic endeavor, primarily quantitative and qualitative research methodology.
A second principle of effective teaching and learning that is closely tied to the course is the belief that students can best acquire some knowledge and best apply some skills in the field. The instructors believe that taking students to the natural laboratory of Hawaii is the best way for students to experience the actual biological and social invasions that shape the subject matter of this course. The resources of Avila University , though extensive, cannot fully replicate the actual terrestrial, marine, and human environments of Hawaii.
Finally, the philosophy of this course is influenced by the effectiveness of an interdisciplinary perspective to the teaching and learning of course material. The instructors believe that the most effective way to learn about change in a particular location is to recognize the interdependence of biological and cultural entities. In other words, a basic premise of this course is that the biological status of the Hawaiian Islands is influenced directly by past and ongoing cultural changes, and that the cultural status of the Hawaiian people is influenced directly by the biological changes around them.
Using a combination of a 9-day trip to Hawaii and classroom experiences at Avila University both before and after the trip, this interdisciplinary course examines the cultural and natural history of the Hawaiian Islands. Central to the course is the theme of invasions: invasions by people of various heritages and motivations and invasions by non-native flora and fauna. While on the islands, students engage in both biological and social research experiences. Students study the biology and geology of both the islands and the surrounding coral sea environment. In addition, students examine Hawaii's past, present, and future, with an emphasis on the cultural diversity of its residents.
For students, the objectives of the course were: (1) to develop an understanding and appreciation of the various perspectives used in the study of the cultural and natural history of Hawaii, and to apply and practice these perspectives in the context of collaborative projects, all within the theme of cultural and natural invasions; (2) to demonstrate comprehension of the fundamental principles necessary for understanding and analyzing terrestrial and marine environments of Hawaii, and applying these principles to current research issues; and (3) to demonstrate comprehension of the fundamental principles necessary for understanding and analyzing the cultural and social features of Hawaii, applying these also to a current research issue.
Students and instructors meet on several occasions prior to the field experience. The objectives of these sessions were: (1) to introduce the course and its focal theme to the students, (2) to give students the opportunity to acquire the knowledge needed to effectively conduct research studies during the field experience, (3) to provide students an opportunity to share newly acquired knowledge about specific topics with other members of the class, and (4) to begin the process of research design.
During the field experience in Hawaii, each student engaged in three (3) collaborative research studies. The primary objectives of the course during the field experience were: (1) to continue the process of research design, (2) to collect data that can directly test the students' hypotheses, and (3) to begin the process of data analysis. Each of the days in Hawaii includes classroom experiences, field experiences, and free time.
Students were assigned to cultural and marine biology research teams. Early assignment to a cultural team was necessary because of the need to engage in background research prior to the field experience. Assignments to a marine team were predicated on self-evaluations of swimming ability and experience in a marine setting. The terrestrial biology teams were self-selected by students after arrival in the field and assessment of possibilities for specific topics. The only rule imposed on the self-selection process was that, to the extent possible, teams be composed of different combinations of participants in order to enhance the opportunities to practice group process skills with different teammates.
After the field experience in Hawaii, the students and instructors met twice. The objectives of these sessions were: (1) to complete the research process for each of the three areas, (2) to complete two written reports of the terrestrial and marine biology research projects, (3) to complete and present a group presentation (often using PowerPoint ®) of results from the cultural project, and (4) to reflect on the successes and areas for improvement of the course.
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