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Syllabus | Environmental Ethics


Go to: Description | Goals | Texts | Form | Grading | Academic Honesty

Course Description

The natural world is all around us. We live in it, feed off it, and fundamentally depend on it. Yet, many of us pay very little attention to it unless something goes wrong. This course examines our relationship to the natural world and what kinds of moral and social obligations we have to that world. By engaging directly with the debates that surround contemporary events and policies–like fracking, global warming, genetically modified food, and population growth–we will explore the various concepts and theories that lie behind these debates and learn to turn a critical eye towards our engagement with the environment.

Go to: Description | Goals | Texts | Form | Grading | Academic Honesty

Course Goals

At the end of this course, you will be able to

  1. a) Understand basic ethical theories, modern environmental problems, and related socio-political movements
    b) Be able to explain these concepts to others
  2. Display competent writing and revision skills
  3. Articulate coherent and thought out personal values on environmental topics

To meet these goals, you will

  • Maintain a blog to present and track course progress
  • Post on both assigned and individually developed writing topics
  • Apply concepts and theories to concrete situations
  • Comment on other students’ work
  • Create exam questions
  • Collaboratively create and present a blog post to the class on a chosen topic
  • Revise posts into a coherent overview of your learning experience over the course of the semester

Go to: Description | Goals | Texts | Form | Grading | Academic Honesty

Required Texts

Louis P. Pojman and Paul Pojman, Environmental Ethics: Readings in Theory and Application, 6th Edition, (Boston: Wadsworth, 2012).

ISBN-10: 0538452846
ISBN-13: 978-0538452847

NOTE: This text is, unfortunately, very expensive, so I recommend you purchase it used. Make sure, however, that you purchase the 6th Edition. If you purchase an earlier edition that is missing readings, you will be held responsible for any assignments missed as a result.

Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein, They Say, I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing, 2nd Edition (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010).

ISBN-10: 039393361X
ISBN-13: 978-0393933611

NOTE: There is another edition called “They Say, I Say: The Moves that Matter in Academic Writing with Readings.” Make sure you do not purchase this version. It is more expensive and page numbers are taken from the version without additional readings.

Go to: Description | Goals | Texts | Form | Grading | Academic Honesty

Form of the Course

This is a three week intensive course with a heavy writing component.  As a result, it requires strong self-motivation on the part of you as the student.  To emphasize this fact, the course is organized as a distributed community, meaning each student will control their own blog.  All assignments and some resources will be provided through this main course blog; however, assignments will be fulfilled off-site by posting on your personal blog, commenting on other students’ blogs, and collaborating with other students in Google Docs and other online spaces.  Only for general questions, video chats, and final projects will any student created material be posted on this central blog.

A Note on Time Management: Because discussion with other students is so important for this course to work, you must make a strong effort to be timely with your posting and comments–even being early, if possible!  This will make it easier for other students to have time to respond to your posts and comments, giving you quality feedback.

Go to: Description | Goals | Texts | Form | Grading | Academic Honesty


For the instructor’s grading philosophy see the Learning Packet

Blog Posts [40%]

Each student will maintain their own blog where they will post their answers to writing prompts, keep track of their research, and respond to fellow students’ comments.

Posted on Personal Blog | See Learning Packet for more details

Comments [15%]

Each student will be responsible for responding to other students’ posts in the comment section on those students’ blogs.  Most comments will be on group member blogs; however, some assignments will require reading other groups’ posts.

Posted on Personal Blog and Other Students’ Blogs | See Learning Packet for more details

Group Work [25%]

Students will work together in groups to prepare a presentation to the class on their assigned topic (partially chosen at the start of the course).  The grade will be made up of both a whole group grade (for the final posts) [18%] and an individual contribution grade, based on self-evaluations, evaluation by group members, and analysis of post revisions (in the group’s Google Doc) by the instructor [7%].

Created in Google Docs; Posted on Main Course Blog | See Learning Packet for more details; See here for full instructions.

Final Post [10%]

During the last week of the course, students will work on revising select posts (chosen by the student and the instructor) from the first two weeks of the course into an overview of their learning.  On the last day of the course, students will post this overview to the main course blog for the class to read.

Posted on the Main Course Blog | See Learning Packet for more details

Exam Questions [5%]

During some Writing Prompts, students will be responsible for writing exam questions and the corresponding answer key.  The best of these questions will be used to write end of unit exams to help each student check their progress.

Posted on Personal Blog | See Learning Packet for more details

Final Exam [5%]

A short answer test based on all material from throughout the semester, including presentations.

Taken in Google Docs | See Learning Packet for more details

Extra Credit: Social Media [+5%]

The internet provides multiple avenues for sharing resources and collaborating with and helping other students.  Social media is one of the main forms of interaction: Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc.  If you are using these services to connect with other students and work on the course, share your contributions for extra credit.

Extra Credit: Reflection [+5%]

Write an additional post in Weeks 01 and 02 that reflect back on your learning experience over the past week. Assignment added Jan 14th.

See Learning Packet for more details

Go to: Description | Goals | Texts | Form | Grading | Academic Honesty

Academic Honesty

All students must adhere in their work to the University’s plagiarism policy, which is listed in full here. By taking this course, the student agrees to adhere to the University’s Honesty Code. Any and all violations of the Honesty Code will be referred to the appropriate Academic Honesty Committee and the referred student will fail the course. All graded assignments should be worked on by the student submitting the work and no one else.

See Learning Packet for more details

Go to: Description | Goals | Texts | Form | Grading | Academic Honesty


51 Responses to Syllabus

  1. avatar sbranch says:

    For the extra credit we will need to share our course blog on facebook? Or just communicate with other students in the class on facebook?

  2. avatar Emily says:

    Video chats are mentioned in the syllabus. I have a full time job during winter break. Will this cause a conflict with video chats?

    • avatar Brandon says:

      I’m going to try and schedule them so as many people as possible can attend them (I’ll send out an email in a few days to determine the best time). If you can’t make it, the best case is there will be a recording (fingers crossed on the tech working for that), worst case you can ask questions by email.

  3. avatar Bonnie S. says:

    I also have a full time job during the winter break and I am concerned with due dates/times.
    For commenting on other people’s posts: If our posts are due at 1PM and we need to comment on other people’s posts by 8PM, does that mean there is only a 7 hour time frame to do this? Because I work 5 days a week during those 7 hours.
    Also, are the video chats mandatory to attend? I am curious just in case my work schedule falls at the same time.

    • avatar Bonnie S. says:

      One more question:

      Are the lectures and assignments given to us day of or are they given to us ahead of time?

      • avatar Brandon says:

        Lectures and assignments are given ahead of time (to give you an idea, I’m aiming on having the first five days of assignments done by Monday and then work from there).

        Video chats are not mandatory. We’ll hopefully have them when everyone can meet, but that’s not likely to happen.

        The comments deadline is tricky. The real problem is making sure that people comment in time for the authors to respond before we all get caught up in the next assignment (hard with such a tight schedule). The deadline for the comments is for your first comment, so you don’t need to have all the comments in by that time. Exceptions can be made, but only when absolutely necessary.

  4. avatar Allie says:

    Will we be allowed to choose our own groups?

  5. avatar mmalinowski says:

    Can we use Drop Box rather than Google Docs when collaborating with other students? If so, can we consider it a social media? Also, where should we post this contribution for extra credit, the main blog for example?

    • avatar Brandon says:

      The group project needs to be done as a draft in Google Docs because I need to be able to see edits and things like that (for individual contributions). I’ll share a doc with each group with a template on it, so you have guidelines on how to fill it out.

      Beyond that, you can use Drop Box in addition to Google Docs if your group is interested and it would count towards social media, although you would also have to have social media activity elsewhere.

      Your extra credit posts should be on your blog and submitted to me like the daily writing prompts.

  6. avatar aglielmi says:

    Where do you recommend to be the best place to purchase our required texts?

  7. avatar Anonymous says:

    Will all readings be available online? What exactly are the purposes of the physical texts?

  8. avatar Asa says:

    Is there any way to view the information from the textbook for the first two or three days? I signed up for the class recently and I’m not quite sure when I will be receiving my books since I purchased them online. Based on the Amazon estimate, I will be receiving my books Thursday at the very latest.

    • avatar Brandon says:

      Unfortunately there is not. However, the prompts are not heavily dependent on the readings until Friday, so you shouldn’t have a real problem relying on the lectures (after Thursday, however, you must have the books).

  9. avatar Kellyn says:

    Is there any specific length that our comments and prompts need to be?

    • avatar Brandon says:

      Short answer: as long as it takes to fulfill the assignment.

      Long answer: On each prompt I give a general guideline (mostly around 500 words) that you should be aiming for. This is only a guideline, but most likely you will need to meet or even exceed that count to answer the question. If you don’t meet it, that’s not necessarily a problem, but make sure you’ve covered the assignment fully.

      Comments are a bit trickier because you are responding, so how long they need to be depends on what you are responding to. I suggest looking at the grading rubric to get an idea of what to do.

  10. avatar Andrea says:

    I filled out my profile informationation and clicked update profile, but when i look it up to make changes my bio was no longer there. When I updated it again i only changed my name i want displayed and avatar image. Now it shows my previous replies w/ the prior name but updated picture, and new name w/ updated picture. So is this normal, and where is my bio info?

    • avatar Brandon says:

      No, not normal. This is the first time this problem has happened. Luckily, your bio is now showing, so there may have just been a delay in the info being processed. Just double check that the image, display name, and website are correct.

  11. avatar ywang says:

    will you give us the final exam questions before the 27th? are there any make up for the final if I have a schedule conflict on that time?

    • avatar Brandon says:

      Exam questions are only revealed on the 27th (they are emailed by the class the day before–see exam question assignment).

      If you have a conflict, please email me at bdavisshannon[at]gmail.com and we’ll see about resolving it.

  12. avatar ddavy says:

    What are the length requirements for posts, comments and assignments?

  13. avatar Cindy says:

    My books haven’t arrived yet. Because this class is so fast pace, will I be severely behind if my books don’t arrive until late in the week?

  14. avatar Smalls says:

    If we have questions regarding an assignment (or other aspect of the course), what is an appropriate amount of time to expect a response?

    • avatar Brandon says:

      I typically try to respond within 3 hours between 10am and 8pm (and it is usually much, much less than that). If you email me at 10pm, for instance, I won’t usually respond until the morning.

      However, this depends on the week. During week 3, I will be teaching 5 other courses, so my responses may be slower on Mon, Weds, and Fri of that week.

      At all times, it is best to be aware of what is coming up (within 48 hours) and ask questions with a good margin to spare.

      I will, of course, always try to be available as quickly as possible.

  15. avatar Kirsten T says:

    What exactly will be discussed during the video chats? Is it a discussion on reading material or lecture material?

    • avatar Brandon says:

      It can be both. Before each chat I’ll put up a post where everyone put up the most pressing questions they have. This will help me identify the areas where everyone needs to review, so I can prepare to talk about those areas in more detail.

  16. avatar Wilma Chen says:

    For the final exam, will all of the students have to complete it during the same hour? Or will it be like the rest of the assignments and have a deadline?

  17. avatar chollenback says:

    How did you choose the two textbooks that we are using for the course?

    • avatar Brandon says:

      Lots and lots of compare and contrast. For Environmental Ethics books, I’m not entirely happy with any I’ve used (this one has the best overview, but is still sorely lacking; thus, why the Wilderness Preservation path is entirely electronic).

      The argument book on the other hand was recommended to me and I reading over it I thought it might make things easier for anyone not used to academic argumentation (like the essays from the Ethics textbook ;)).

  18. avatar N.Marshall says:

    Do you know when we will be assigned our topic and group members for the (Group Work) portion of the course?

  19. avatar Thomas M. says:

    Is there any way you could provide us examples of what A/B/C quality comments would look like?

  20. avatar Shawn says:

    Do you care if we rent the books as it is much cheaper? I was looking into this and if I rent the books I won’t get any supplemental materials, such as dvd’s or web access. Do you know if the book comes with these and if so are they important for the course or just a convenience?

  21. avatar Leah says:

    when will we find out when the video chats are taking place?

    • avatar Brandon says:

      I’ll send out an email later today with possible times for the class to fill out. The most popular time will be when we meet for the first video chat. I’ll try and vary times, so that those who can’t come to one can make it to another.

  22. avatar Andrea says:

    where it says Comment: on atleast 5 intro posts.
    Did you mean comment on other students writing assignments/Prompt 01???

  23. avatar Andrea says:

    Also I have a question about the video chat times. Will only one be chosen out of the two depending on the majority, I ask because for right now the early time would work better because without interruption, but I may have to work so I voted for the evening time. Which is ok if there are no other options, but there is no guarantee my kids will go to bed on time and leave me alone if they hear my computer.

    • avatar Brandon says:

      I feel your pain. The earlier time is me trying to get a time that might fit during my daughter’s approximate nap time.

      The chat will only be held at one time, but I’m going to try and mix up the times for each chat so that those who can’t make it to one can make it to others.

      I’m also looking into recording the chats so that those who can’t make them will at least be able to watch them later (unfortunately, I can’t guarantee that right now).

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