Conservation Matters June 2012

The Texas Land, Water and Wildlife Connection

Water, environment focus of new Soil and Crop Sciences Department curriculum

The curriculum of the Texas A&M University Department of Soil and Crop Sciences is about to change with the times and place more emphasis on water and environmental issues, said Dr. Jim Heilman.

Heilman is a professor of environmental physics who chaired the curriculum committee. The committee's three-year review and assessment process has resulted with changes that will be implemented this fall, as well as others that will go before the Board of Regents and the Texas Higher Education Board for approval.

"The first thing we needed to do was determine what knowledge and skills our graduates should have," Heilman said. "We created external panels outside the Texas A&M University System--from academia, industry and government agencies. That reduced imposing our biases."

With about 100 panelists providing input, he said information was gathered to create learning outcomes that describe what graduates should be able to do when they get out, such as data analysis, communication and working collaboratively.

"And then these learning outcomes were used as a basis for developing new courses and revising existing courses," Heilman said. "We are eliminating courses and replacing them with new ones. The total number of courses didn't change that much, but the structure of the courses has changed.

"We've designed our courses to first introduce learning outcomes, then be followed by courses that reinforce the learning outcomes, and then the students will go to capstone courses designed to demonstrate mastery of the skill—problem-solving and creative thinking," he said. "They will be studying real-world problems and coming up with creative solutions."

The new curriculum will involve less lecturing and more lab and field instruction, which will create both challenges and excitement among professors and students, Heilman said.

"Our new degree programs will be a bachelor's of science in plant and environmental soil science, which is an existing degree we've modified," he said. "And we are awaiting approval of a new degree, a bachelor's of science in turfgrass science."

For more information, read the full AgriLife TODAY article.

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