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This text contains twelve "Issues in Oceanography," brief projects which use pressing marine environmental issues as a means to develop your students' critical thinking skills in a deliberate and structured way. By their nature, they require students to integrate topics from across sub-disciplines to measure, analyze, and evaluate the issue using the discipline and method of a scientist. The text consists of brief introductions. The remainder of the analysis is found on the Companion Web Site at prenhall/oceanissues.
These Issues, like our previous text, Environmental Issues: Measuring, Analyzing, and Evaluating, grew out of our desire to encourage in the reader a more "active" style of learning and discourage what we see as a passive and unhealthy dependency on the faculty person as the "expert." One of our major objectives is to help develop math literacy (numeracy) among today's students; not necessarily arcane math, but the kind of math needed to properly quantify environmental issues. Such skills involve the ability to manipulate large numbers using scientific notation and exponents, the ability to use compound growth equations containing natural logs, etc. This lack of math skills often leaves students unprepared to deal with the complexity of today's environmental issues. For a more detailed version of our methods and a different set of issues, we refer you to Environmental Issues. In this modest text, we provide detailed introductions for each of our twelve topics. The Issues projects are designed to take from one to three hours to complete. The Instructor's Manual contains suggestions for employing the Issues in your course, as well as test questions based on their content.
The Issues and critical thinking questions have been designed to be provocative. Although we have made the content as factual as possible, we admit to having strong convictions about these issues. Convictions are not, however, biases. Our views as scientists are subject to change as evidence supporting our convictions changes. Indeed this aspect can be turned to a major advantage. Ask your students to look for examples of bias in the questions, and then discuss with them the difference in science between "bias" and "conviction." No doubt it will prove a fruitful activity, and may lead students into research (perhaps to "prove us wrong"), which is the essence of progress in the search for scientific truth. To the Student
As environmental scientists, we care deeply about the health of the ocean, and we feel that you, as a responsible citizen who will have to make increasingly difficult choices in the years ahead, need to be concerned about them as well. We hope you will find the Issues in Oceanography contained in this text to be a provocative introduction to a number of these issues, including many that you may have never even thought about. Contained in the text are brief introductions. The complete projects are found on the Companion Web Site at prenhall/oceanissues. These are real-life issues, not hypothetical ones, and you need certain basic skills to fully understand them.
They are as follows:
You must be familiar with and be able to use the units of the metric system. You must be able to use a few simple mathematical formulas to quantify the issues you will be debating, and you must be able to carry out the calculations accurately. You must rigorously and continuously assess your thinking and apply certain critical thinking skills and techniques when discussing the implications of your calculations.
We understand that many students have some "math anxiety," so we use a step-by-step method to take you through many of the calculations in the Issues. Math proficiency is one of the important skills necessary for fully understanding environmental issues, and without these skills, your only option is to make choices on the basis of which "expert" you believe. But becoming educated is much more than simply acquiring skills. Therefore, we have another two fundamental objectives: to provide you with the knowledge and intellectual standards necessary to apply critical thinking to environmental studies, and to foster your ability to critically evaluate issues. How to Use this Book
The content of Issues in Oceanography resides only in part between the covers of the text. The remainder is contained on the web site prenhall/oceanissues. For each of the issues, you should begin by reading the 2-4 page introductions in the book. Then access our web site and begin your own analysis of the issue.
Each web site begins with an "Issue Discussion." An "Analysis" section consisting of relevant background information, questions, and spaces for your answers follows this. You can submit your responses to your instructor by clicking the appropriate button. In many of the issues we have provided you with a "Media Analysis" section where you can listen to short clips of interviews or news reports and answer questions about them. Finally, each site contains an annotated list of links, which we call "Destinations." What is Critical Thinking?
Critical thinking involves using a set of criteria and standards by which the reasoner constantly assesses her/his thinking. At the core of critical thinking is self-assessment, and here are the standards we all need to use in order to reason effectively.
First, all reasoning is an attempt to figure something out, or to solve a problem.
Second, the critical thinker above all must be clear on the nature of the problem to be solved, which introduces what some have called the "gateway" critical thinking standard: clarity. For if a statement is not clear, it cannot be studied or assessed effectively. Think about your own career as a student for a moment: have there been times when you did not clearly understand an assignment or a text question, which in turn contributed to your missing the question? Have there been times when, in discussing an assignment with some of your classmates, that several versions of the assignment emerged? If so, you have an illustration of the importance of clarity in thinking.
Next (but in no particular order) the reasoner uses evidence, consisting of the results of experiments, that is data or information, and observations to solve a problem. This introduces other essential standards. We must be sure that the evidence is relevant to the issue being analyzed, and that the information is sufficiently accurate (true) and precise (sufficiently detailed) to use to solve our problem. Do you see now why critical thinkers must constantly assess their thinking? This raises another issue: critical thinking is hard work--it isn't easy!
Other criteria we must use to assess our reasoning are: we must ensure that our thinking is sufficiently broad and deep, such that we have considered all reasonable information; we must ensure that we have been fair-minded—that we have fairly considered all reasoned points of view if we are trying to solve a problem that involves reasoned judgment. An example: How much pollution can we put into the ocean without damaging marine life?
In summary we must constantly assess our thinking when we are trying to solve a problem, when we are using reasoned judgment. We must be sure that we clearly understand the problem, we must use relevant information in the solution, the information must be sufficiently broad and deep, and we must consider fairly all relevant points of view, that is, points of view that obtain from reasoning-not just "opinions." Finally here, note that there are significant differences between "opinions" and "points of view" in our lexicon. Anyone can have an opinion, but for it to be relevant to scientific inquiry it must be an opinion informed by the principles of critical thinking and logic. For more information on this topic, go to our earlier book Environmental Issues, or check out the Center for Critical Thinking's web site at criticalthinking. Conclusion
As our national and global population grows and changes and our relationships with other nations and peoples evolve, environmental issues, especially those involving our common heritage, the oceans and the atmosphere, will become increasingly complicated. We hope that you will be challenged by the issues discussed in this text and that you will research them and become an "expert" on the topics yourself. In fact, if we may be allowed a hidden agenda, this is it.
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Daniel C. Abel;Robert L. McConnell;Eric Koepfler
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Daniel C. Abel;Robert L. McConnell;Eric Koepfler
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