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SOS Workshop Guidelines

January 2020

In a workshop course, a faculty member supervises a group of students to address a single highly applied problem, challenge or task related to sustainability. In the course of the project, students link the knowledge they have acquired in their courses to action in the community. All undergraduate students are required to do two capstone experiences, and workshops are one way to meet one of those. They are also popular with graduate students (and required for PhD students).

Faculty wishing to create a workshop are asked to submit a draft syllabus addressing these criteria:

  • The proposed project is sustainability-focused and provides a real, valued deliverable to an organization. Example products include reports, proposals, or designs. The students act in a consulting role to an identifiable client or group of stakeholders. Formal stakeholder input and/or involvement is integrated into the project.
  • Students will develop an explicit set of skills in the course of the project. The skills are identified in the syllabus, and students are given explicit feedback on their attainment of those skills. Professional skills, in particular team-working skills, are taught and used in the project.
  • The course is truly project-based; while it may include “mini-lectures,” tutorials, or independent reading and study, students learn primarily by doing.
  • Because our workshop courses are designated as SOS 498, they must meet the requirements of the general studies designation for Literacy and Critical Inquiry (L) which has 4 criteria:
    1. At least 50% of the grade in the course should depend upon writing assignments. Group projects are acceptable if each student gathers, interprets, and evaluates evidence, and prepares a summary report.
    2. The writing assignments should involve gathering, interpreting and evaluating evidence. They should reflect critical inquiry, extending beyond opinion and/or reflection.
    3. A minimum of two substantial writing or speaking tasks must be required
    4. These substantial writing and speaking assignments must be timed so that the student has the ability to receive and incorporate feedback from instructor for subsequent assignments or drafts of the final product.
  • Because workshops serve as capstone experiences for SOS undergraduates, they must allow students to demonstrate that they have mastered the sustainability competencies and program-level learning outcomes (Systems Thinking, Future Thinking, Values Thinking, Strategic Thinking and Collaboration). The syllabus must include information about these competencies and how the attainment of these will be demonstrated and evaluated. Students should be able to consciously identify their use of these skills and abilities. Ideally some sort of self-evaluation would incorporate a student’s assessment of their own attainment and demonstration of these competencies / learning outcomes.
  • If the workshop is to be offered to both undergraduate and graduate students, the syllabus must explain how the course will be presented at a more challenging level for the graduate students. Will graduate students lead student groups? Will they have additional readings or other responsibilities? Will they provide more of the oversight of the writing and editing of the written products of the course?
  • The syllabus should specify that outcomes of the workshop course will be posted on the School’s project exchange (Sustainability Connect) to allow building on this work in the future and share project success.
  • A workshop proposal and/or draft syllabus including the six points above should be submitted to the SOS curriculum support manager and SOS Associate Dean at least six months prior to the start of proposed semester. Please see the following ten questions to help you plan your workshop.
  • Once approved, please submit your workshop to Sustainability Connect to help SOS record and advertise this project.

Additional Questions to Help You Plan Your Workshop

  1. What is the research question or problem statement? Can the project be clearly defined so that it is a meaningful one-semester learning experience (in terms of content, size, complexity)? Is the amount of work expected appropriate 3 credits?
  2. Is IRB approval needed for student or faculty activities? If so, will students have taken the human subjects online course before work begins?
  3. Who are the ideal faculty team leaders? Who wants to participate, and at what level?
  4. How many students can participate in the project?
  5. What professional skills must students already possess to be successful? Will they receive team, communication, and project management training? What professional skills will students acquire by the end of the project?
  6. What products will students produce? Are there relevant products that would be useful for students to add to a portfolio? What steps are needed to post outcomes/products on Sustainability Connect?
  7. How will students communicate the results of their work to stakeholders in the project (including the both the research community and the public)?
  8. How will students be evaluated, both individually and as a team? Will rubrics be provided so that students will be clear about expectations for the quality of the work they will produce?
  9. How will faculty coordinate supervision and assessment of students? What approach to team teaching will be taken?