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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Ecological Science

Undergraduate Course: Critical Thinking in Ecological and Environmental Sciences (ECSC10034)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryThis course is based around intensive interactions between students and staff in weekly small group tutorials over S1 and the first part of S2.

Course description The goals of this course are:
- To discuss scientific issues, methods, processes and outcomes with an expert in a small group setting, based on analysis of peer-reviewed literature;
- For staff to provide direct feedback to students on their critical thinking, speaking and writing skills in a weekly forum;
- To introduce students to the research process in ecological and environmental sciences and to better prepare them for the dissertation process.

Students are required to prepare for each tutorial by completing the assigned reading and any specific tasks they are allocated. The first four tutorials are led by staff. The fifth session is a feedback session. The remaining tutorials are student-led.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed:
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Students must be enrolled on Ecological and Environmental Sciences
Additional Costs No
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2017/18, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  None
Course Start Full Year
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 100 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 12, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 2, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 86 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Each student will be required to demonstrate the capacity to synthesise research on a current and relevant science question, of his/her selection, by organising a tutorial and then producing a short report. Building on staff-led tutorials, the tutorial and report should aim to highlight recent exciting research addressing the question, provide context for the findings within a field, and explain potential interdisciplinary significance. The synthesis should add a dimension to the research cited and not merely be a summary or list of the citations.

The synthesis and the associated assessment will be in two parts:
A) Organisation and leadership of the tutorial by each student (25% of the overall mark)
B) Preparation of a 1000 word synthesis of the tutorial topic (75% of the overall mark). Submission via Learn with a single deadline for all students in S2.

A. Each student will select a topic for discussion focused on a clear current science question in ecological and/or environmental sciences. The student will distribute (provide links to) at least two key papers on that topic one week in advance, to all members of the group. Then the student will lead discussion at the tutorial, including asking key questions, guiding the other students towards synthesis, and providing context from broader reading. Within the time limits of the tutorial the student should then provide a short synthesis of the discussion to conclude. The academic staff member will finish the tutorial by providing some verbal feedback on initial synthesis, providing guidance for the student around preparing for part B of the assessment, the written component, and more general comments about the scientific process raised through the discussion.

The academic staff member will normatively assess the tutorial for [% of marks indicated]:
(i) Organisation of the meeting and time-keeping [10%]
(ii) Demonstration of preparation, e.g. introductory e-mail to the topic, opening statement, questions asked, evidence of back-ground reading [25%]
(iii) Ability to lead and synthesise discussion from group members [40%]
(iv) Final summary of learnings, key areas for future research [25%]

B. Each student will then prepare a synthesis of the topic by a common hand-in date, using their own work and the discussion group input. The text must not exceed 1000 words. References are not included in the 1000 word limit; we expect a minimum of 10 and no more than 20 references. Further one figure/table can be included in the submission. The table/figure must be generated by the student and act to assist the synthesis.

The text will be assessed for:
(i) Keeping to text, reference, figure/table limit [10%]
(ii) Clear and structured writing and thinking [20%]
(iii) Description of the topic, state of knowledge [20%]
(iv) Synthesis of knowledge and ideas from multiple sources [30%]
(v) Summary and conclusions for future research and/or actions [20%]
Feedback At the fourth tutorial each student will submit a piece (maximum 1000 words) on the following topic:
Which is more valuable for advancing ecological and environmental sciences: observations, experiments or models?
Each student will be expected to take a position and argue for one of the three options.
The piece will be provided with a mark for guidance, and personal feedback will be provided in the fifth session on its structure and content. Feedback will also be provided at this stage on the student's contribution in class sessions up to that point
Further feedback will be provided by staff after each student-led tutorial.
Examples of feedback can be found here:
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. To develop broader and deeper knowledge of cutting edge research in ecological and environmental sciences.
  2. To improve critical capacity in relation to assessing value and originality of research.
  3. To understand the process of structuring a scientific manuscript
Reading List
Reading lists for first four tutorials to be found on course page on Learn.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Presentation and communications, in writing, summarizing, and group working.
Study Abroad N/A
Additional Class Delivery Information First Meeting: Tuesday 19 September, 1300-1400, Crew 302

Further meetings to be arranged between students and staff. We expect 8 meetings in S1 and 4 in S2, with some flexibility.
KeywordsEcological and Environmental Sciences
Course organiserProf Mathew Williams
Tel: (0131 6)50 7776
Course secretaryMiss Eilein Fraser
Tel: (0131 6)50 5430
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