Understanding student expectations in developing environmental science courses
journal contributionposted on 2006-01-01, 00:00 authored by Raylene CookeRaylene Cooke, Kelly MillerKelly Miller, John WhiteJohn White
Developing relevant and innovative University courses is a complex and often difficult task. This is particularly true when developing environmental science courses as the banner of environmental science has the potential to include an extremely vast array of subject material and course content. Added to this is the diversity of students entering these courses, and their associated course expectations and aspirations. A third component that cannot be ignored when developing courses includes employer demands and expectations of graduates at course completion. As tertiary educators we therefore have the challenge of developing innovative environmental science courses that are academically challenging, but meet the expectations of students, staff and potential future employers. To ensure that we meet this challenge it is vital that we determine the expectations of all relevant parties (students, staff, and potential employers) and develop our courses accordingly. Here we report on the 'student expectations' component of this. To determine student expectations we conducted a survey of all commencing first year environmental science students. The survey asked students to provide information on drivers for course selection, preferred learning styles, the importance of different approaches to teaching, subject interest areas and employment aspirations. Our results found that environmental science students have a preference for fieldwork and hands-on experience and are very supportive of teaching that combines different teaching methods. On-line teaching was not supported by commencing environmental science students. Commencing students showed a very strong interest in key subject areas of environmental science such as Wildlife, animal conservation, national and marine parks, conservation and marine Wildlife; however, some of the critical areas of environmental science such as population statistics, social sciences and chemistry did not attract the same level of interest. Most commencing students had some idea on where they would like to gain employment on course completion. Knowledge relating to student expectations is Vital, particularly when designing courses, developing specific unit content and undertaking marketing and course information sessions. With this knowledge we can be confident that students enrolling in environmental science will, to a large extent, have their expectations met.