ELA A Delicate Balance Spring 2009

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1 ELA A Delicate Balance Spring 2009 Instructor Ron Steffens Course Description What does it mean to be an engaged citizen? What will we ask of such citizens -- of each other -- as we route our way towards a sustainable future? And what concepts and tools are needed to support the civic processes that in turn support sustainable communities? In A Delicate Balance, the capstone course of our general education program, we ll examine these questions from a range of disciplinary and cultural perspectives. This course will build on your prior coursework in the Environmental Liberal Arts program, which explores how our roles in natural and human communities are affected by history, science, literature and culture. This semester you will be asked to expand on prior ELA studies in order to understand and prepare for an era that is undergoing rapid cultural, economic, and physical changes. By most accounts, the resolution of these challenges will demand an inspired collective response -- yet this collective response will challenge each of us, individually, to acquire and apply substantial knowledge, to analyze and make choices on global and local concerns, and to maintain a sense of personal and community equilibrium. To support your mastery of the diverse skills that our times require, A Delicate Balance is organized as a seminar -- a group of advanced students, guided by an instructor as we engage in scholarly inquiry and discussions. In a seminar, it is essential that you offer an informed and personal perspective on the topics at hand; it s a more active forum for learning, one in which you seek to gain knowledge and resolve issues, for yourself and for others. Our readings and studies will range widely, drawing on the work of political philosophers, political leaders, artists, and scientists. We will draw on the wide range of experts who visit campus as well as contemporary accounts of civic engagement. From this groundwork, you will be asked to integrate, reflect upon, and apply these concepts to your personal goals. Building on this base of study and reflection, you will then be asked to research and publish a project that synthesizes scholarly and creative work -- for a general audience, and in support of a community-based sustainability initiative. This project should be a culmination and expression of your personal interests and aspirations, and it should advance the skills and concepts you have acquired during your college career to this point. The project will become part of an academic portfolio that you may share with peers, prospective employers, or graduate schools. A note on the course focus, Civic Engagement & Sustainability. Sustainability is a concept that is integral both to Green Mountain College's educational practices and to long-term community

2 success. Sustainability appears to be a key approach to the environmental, cultural, and economic issues that we face now and in the future. Yet to achieve sustainable practices, many argue that participants and leaders must understand and apply a civic-engagement process. So, for the purposes of the course, we may wish to think of Civic Engagement as a process that can be applied to any common goal, and Sustainability as a parallel process but also the goal (and some might say, the ideal result) of a civic engagement process. Course Objectives After completing this course you should be able to: Understand the relationships between governance and individual freedoms, and between sustainability and civic engagement. Understand different models of civic engagement as they are applied in political, economic and social contexts. Develop and articulate a personal model of civic engagement and participation. Develop sustainability goals that may be achieved through civic engagement processes. Apply interdisciplinary inquiry strategies to issues emerging from the civic engagement and sustainability movements. Enhance your ability to understand, critically assess, and discuss complex readings. Enhance your ability to write and research independently and in small groups. Enhance your ability to examine ethical and value assumptions. Enhance your presentation and publishing skills, including online communication processes. Required Readings Hawken, Paul. Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Social Movement in History is Restoring Grace, Justice, and Beauty to the World. Penguin, Miller, David. Political Philosophy: A very short introduction. Oxford, The New York Times. (Also available via specific course-focused links, posted in individual Lessons.) Course Outline (Part 1) Civic Engagement and Critical Analysis Week 1: Introduction. What is Civic Engagement READINGS: Hawken, pp and Appendix. Also, sign on to the Epsilen course. ASSIGNMENT: Post a short two-paragraph discussion post to the online forum. Week 2: Working as Teams on Problems and Solutions READINGS: Miller, Ch. 1, 2; Hawken, pp , and review Appendix. ASSIGNMENT: Workgroup Team Reports: Presentation and Draft Wiki Report.

3 Week 3: Assignment 1, Team Report READINGS: Miller, Ch. 3, 4; Hawken, pp ASSIGNMENT: Workgroup Team Reports (continued). Assignment 1 due. (Part 2) Personal and Professional Goals Week 4: Focusing Questions READINGS: Miller, Ch. 5, 6. Hawken, pp ASSIGNMENT: Draft response to focusing questions. Week 5: Assignment 2: Personal Essay, Crafting a Civic Life READINGS: Miller, Ch. 7; Hawken, pp ASSIGNMENT 2 due. (Part 3a) Exploring Civic Engagement and Sustainability Week 6: Project Proposal and Presentation READINGS: Hawken, pp ASSIGNMENT: Project Proposal. Week 7: Civic Engagement Case Study and Mid-Semester Review READINGS: Additional readings from Hawken and to be assigned. ASSIGNMENT: Mid-Semester Review. Proposal returned for revision or approval. Spring Break (Part 3b) Practicing Civic Engagement and Sustainability Week 8: Sustainability Case Study. Research and Project Primer. READINGS: Handout, Making Ideas Stick. ASSIGNMENT: To be posted. Week 9: Workgroup Conferences READINGS: Project Proposals and peer drafts. ASSIGNMENT: Conference participation, independent and group research. Week 10: Presentation Primer ASSIGNMENT: TBA Week 11: Publishing Primer ASSIGNMENT: Research Paper due (confirm date)

4 Week 12: Project Workgroup Meetings ASSIGNMENT: Workgroup meetings during class time and outside of class. Week 13: Presentations READINGS: Supplied by presenters. ASSIGNMENT: Project Presentations. Week 14: Presentations and Project Review READINGS: Supplied by presenters. ASSIGNMENT: Project Presentations. Project Publication (includes research report). Week 15: Applying Projects, Course Review ASSIGNMENT: Course assessment and reflection; submission of project participation memo (noting your accomplishments, your role in your group, lessons learned, etc.); and reflection on key elements in your eportfolio. FINAL EXAM Date and time to be announced. Course Requirements This course serves as a model for studying and practicing civic engagement. Students are expected to engage in discussion during class and in groups and online communities outside of class. A student who is absent, unprepared for class, or unable to meet out-of-class group commitments will be recorded as absent. After the equivalent of 3 absences, a student will be notified that their participation is unsatisfactory. If the student fails to remediate the noted issue(s), his/her lack of effective participation will be noted in the participation assessment (and may result in a reduction of one letter grade, or more, for the final class grade). Late assignments will not be accepted for a grade or comment. All applicable college policies and procedures will be observed during this course. If you are unclear about these policies, please see the instructor, your advisor, or other sources of advising and counseling. Policies regarding plagiarism, academic support and accommodation, and academic expectations will be discussed in more detail during class. Details are available in the College's Student Handbook: Evaluation Plan Students will conduct peer assessments of key assignments and presentations. These assessments will be incorporated into the revision process. A Learning Matrix forms a key element of an electronic portfolio (an eportfolio) and will provide a tool to organize and reflect upon course work. Your eportfolio may include work completed outside of this course, but it must include key elements authored during this course. The eportfolio Matrix allows for reflection by the original author and assessment by peers and instructors.

5 Assignments Assignments are listed in the approximate order of when they are due, with the grade weight as a percentage of the total grade. Assignment details are listed in the relevant Lesson in this online course. Deadlines are also posted in the Calendar section. Assignment 1: Team Report (via Team Wiki) (10%) Assignment 2: Personal Essay (10%) Lead a group discussion (of assigned text, to prepare for a speaker, or on current events that apply to the course theme; this task includes posting questions in a course forum) (5%) Short reflections (Written responses to assigned readings, speakers, and concepts, as selected during the semester; to be authored as forum or blog entries; reflections expected in most weeks) (15%) Mid-Semester Review (an in-class written response to readings and speakers) (10%) Assignment 3: a Project eportfolio that includes (a) a project proposal memo, (b) a supporting 8-10 page research report, and (c) the project publication and presentation. These elements and selfassessment reflections will be organized in an eportfolio published via an online Learning Matrix. (40%) Participation (overall, based on class participation, draft process, peer assessments, group work. etc.) (10%)

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