Welcome to Harry, Garry, and Doug's University
Survival Guide for physical geography students

(frank language used)

Computer literacy

Welcome to the future!  All class-related communication will be conducted electronically using email or the Web.  We often provide information via email messages and sometimes as attached files.  We use Microsoft XP Professional (Office Suite).  We use IBM-compatible systems and UWEC standard software (current-most versions supported by LTS of Microsoft: Word, PowerPoint, Publisher, Access, Excel, FrontPage, Internet Explorer, and Outlook.  Students must be conversant with these software applications. 

If you state the following: "I don't know how to use UWEC Standard Software", or "I'm having problems with my computer" the response will always be, "call the LTS help desk at 36-5711".  You must learn basic proficiency with the software on the UWEC standard toolbar.  There are resources available to help you achieve proficiency with computers and computer software.  Examples:  BITS (Bringing Instructional Technology to Students) 36-5157, workshops and individual computer tutoring; LTS Help Desk 36-5711, the premier trouble shooters on campus.

Other important technology-related requirements are: 

1)  You must know your UWEC Student ID# (failure to correctly input this on test scantrons, or failure to correctly and completely fill out test scantrons will incur and immediate 5 point penalty.  You must fill in all the little circles on the scantron where required!).  

2)  You must know your UWEC username (failure to keep informed during the semester by frequently checking your email for updates, schedule changes, study aides, and other course information will cost you).

Frequently communicated misconceptions and our likely responses

C:  Why do I have to take this course?

R:  it is a Category II, General Education course

C:  What is General Education?

R:  General Education is... 

(the following was largely created by Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.  We agree whole-heartedly with Professor Dutch and in most cases we couldn't have said it better ourselves, so mostly we didn't.  Asterisks indicate where we did.)

Great Thinkers Comment on the University Experience

First, let's look at an example of what General Education is not.

I am the very model of a modern Major-General
I've information vegetable, animal and mineral
I know the kings of England and I quote the fights historical
From Marathon to Waterloo in order categorical
I'm very well acquainted too with matters mathematical
I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical
About binomial theorem I'm teeming with a lot of news
With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse
I'm very good at integral and differential calculus
I know the scientific names of beings animalculous
In short, in matters vegetable, animal and mineral
I am the very model of a modern Major-General
Then I can write a washing bill in Babylonic cuneiform
And tell you every detail of Caractacus's uniform
In short, in matters vegetable, animal and mineral
I am the very model of a modern Major-General


When I have learnt what progress has been made in modern gunnery
When I know more of tactics than a novice in a nunnery
In short, when I've a smattering of elemental strategy....

For my military knowledge, though I'm plucky and adventury
Has only been brought down to the beginning of the century
But still in matters vegetable, animal and mineral
I am the very model of a modern Major-General

-----Gilbert and Sullivan, Pirates of Penzance

Give the General his due; he knows mathematics, history, languages and science. He just can't put any of it together or apply it. He collects facts like a pack rat collects tinfoil. As for his specialty, he's woefully uninformed. This is not what General Education is trying to do.

The Purposes of General Education

The roots of university curricula go back through the Middle Ages to about 400 A.D. The Roman Empire was coming unglued, and a Roman proconsul named Martianus Capella confronted the problem of how to cope. With central authority becoming fragmented and invaders sweeping in, there was every likelihood that a person might find himself carried off into captivity a thousand miles from home among people who spoke a completely different language. What did you need to know to survive in such a wildly uncertain world? Capella's answer: everything, or at least as close as you could come to it. Capella's answer is not all that bad in today's uncertain world because a lot of the purposes of General Education haven't changed:

More frequently communicated misconceptions and my responses:

C:  This course covers too much material...

R:  No it does not.  If it does though, great! You got your money's worth! At over $100 a credit, you should complain about not getting a lot of information. If you take a three credit course and get $200 worth of information, you have a right to complain. If you get $500 worth, you got a bargain.  Geography courses at UWEC are a bargain.

*C:  There is too much math in this course.  I thought this was a geography course. 

R:  Geography 104 and 178 are natural science General Education courses.  Physical Geography is a natural science.  You are receiving credit for acquiring knowledge of the natural sciences.  Mathematics is the language of science.  That is the way it is.* 

"A person who cannot cope with mathematics is at best a tolerable subhuman who has learned to bathe, wear shoes, and not make messes in the house."  Robert Anson Heinlein. 

*This doesn't mean you have to like math, or even be good at it.  You just have to cope with it.  You may have to work harder if mathematics is not one of your native skills.*

*C:  This course is too difficult.  I thought geography was going to be easier than physics, chemistry, biology, or geology. 

R:  Well, it isn't.  Physical Geography is a science.  The same academic rigor you expect from other science courses is to be expected here.  The reason the first exam average score is generally lower than others is it takes one profound "shocker" to disabuse students who, despite repeated warnings to the contrary, cling to this faulty assumption.*

C:  The expected grade just for coming to class is a B so why didn't I get one?

R:  This belief seems to be making the rounds in some college circles. The expected grade for just coming to class and not doing anything else is a D or an F. The average grade is supposed to be C although grade inflation is a perennial problem.

Unlike Lake Wobegon, all the children in the real world are not above average.

C:  I disagreed with the Professor's stand on...

R:  The time to deal with this issue is when it comes up in class. I have no respect for anyone who complains on the course evaluations.

But the professor might put me down, or the students might laugh at me. Not too likely, but even if it happens, so what? If you don't have courage in the safe setting of a classroom, when exactly are you planning to develop it? When your boss asks you to falsify figures or lie under oath? When someone throws rocks through your minority neighbor's windows? When the local militia group burns the synagogue?

C:  Some topics covered in lecture or on the study guides weren't on the exams

R:  The point of a class is the material, not the exam. The exam is a check to see whether you learned the material.  There are more topics than exam questions.  *A study guide you make yourself is better than any study guide I could ever provide.*

*C:  Do you curve the test scores when you assign grades?

R:  No.  Be careful what you wish for.  This question is based on the faulty assumption that using a normal distribution curve centered at the mean will somehow improve an individual's grade (yet that individual's test scores will remain the same).  Anything is possible I guess but if you understand what a normal distribution curve is (any basic statistics textbook will address this topic thoroughly) you will recognize this assumption is false.  The grading scheme for this course is explained on the course homepage.  If you have questions about this scheme you have but to ask.*

*C:  Will there be extra credit?

R:  No.  If there is "extra credit" and some people take advantage of it and others don't, then the basis for assigning final grades is not equitable.  The same number of points possible is not consistent, rendering the whole grading process untenable.  If some people get "extra credit" EVERYBODY has to have it in order to compete on a level playing field.  At that point "extra credit" is no longer "extra credit".  Extra credit merely amounts to more work for all students and the instructor, with no additional performance expectations.*   

C:  I studied for hours

R:  This statement makes me very sad.  There are so many things that are possibly wrong here (faulty assumptions, poor study habits, misaligned priorities). 

How many hours? A college credit is defined as three hours' work per week; one in class and two outside. That's why adding a two to four-hour lab to a class only results in one additional credit.  This means that 12 credits translates to an average of 36 hours' work a week. That's why 12 credits is considered full time; it's the equivalent of a full-time job.  If you have a course that meets three hours a week for 3 credits but doesn't require six hours of outside work a week to keep up, consider yourself lucky (but recognize you're not getting a bargain). Other courses may require more time. Also, individual students require different amounts of study time. It does no good to complain that three hours a week per credit is excessive, any more than it does to complain that 26 miles is too long for a marathon. They are what they are.

The one thing you can count on is that a few hours of cramming before the final will not give good results. I recently heard from a student who lamented that she stayed up until 2 A.M. studying, then got up at 6 A.M. and studied some more, and did poorly. And she was surprised? She'd have been better off getting a decent night's sleep.  This is particularly true if you are taking a course in a subject you are not "good at".  Contrary to human nature, which drives us to avoid pain, you must spend more time on the classes you're not good at.  If you're not "good at science" you will have to work harder to succeed. 

"But you don't understand. I have a job." No, you don't understand. This is your job. If you don't believe me, just go out with what you have on your resume now and try to launch a career.

"If you don't think your study efforts are achieving the results you want THERE IS HELP!  You may need to take advantage of campus resources to help you learn how to study more effectively.  See, University Resources."

C:  Students are customers

R:  True. Students are customers, and they have every right to complain about poor service, unprofessional behavior, and out-of-date material. They also have a right to complain about low standards that water down their credentials.

Students are also products, and employers outside the University are also our customers. These customers have a right to complain if our graduates are lacking in skills, knowledge, and motivation. They have a right to complain if we certify someone as being a potentially good employee and that person turns out to be unqualified.

Despite the rising share students pay for their college education, students still only pay 40 percent of the total cost. That means the University's responsibility is 40 per cent to students, and 60 per cent to the community. And our customers in the community want people who can communicate, reason, and have a good general stock of knowledge they can call on for unexpected needs. They also want us to provide an assessment that accurately reflects the quality of work students are likely to turn out as employees.

C:  Do I need to know this?

R:  You can survive without the things you learn in college. People survive scrounging out of dumpsters and sleeping in doorways. If you want to talk about quality of life, we need to be a bit more demanding.

*C:  Do I have to know this for the examination?

R:  No, this is America.  You don't have to do anything you don't want to.  You can even be president with a C average, if you come from money.  You may not do well on an examination if you don't know the material.  But again, the point of the class is the material, not the exam.*

*C:  I missed your class last period.  Did we do anything important?

R:  No, we didn't do anything.  We noticed you weren't present and we couldn't go on.  We cancelled class.  The real response is, of course we did something important!  We learned things that you will have to learn on your own because you weren't there, even if you have an excused absence.  Attendance is mandatory according to university policy.  Attendance and student performance are positively correlated very strongly in this class.  Don't panic.  There are resources if you missed a class due to illness or some other legitimate reason.  You can come to one of us and we will help you.  Your neighbors may share their notes (unless they have grown weary of doing your work for you), PowerPoint lectures are posted (they alone are not a substitute for attending lecture, though a long line of lazy students have tried to make them an attendance substitute--and failed), the assigned readings are posted, our office hours are posted.  The sooner YOU take the initiative to make up what you missed the better.  If you just skipped class because you had a hangover you can anticipate little assistance from us.*

C:  This Course Wasn't Relevant

R:  What planet do you think you live on?  If something as vast as the Earth or mathematics or science or history can pass through your brain without even scraping the sides on the way through, that's a pretty big hole. Are you sure it's the course that doesn't relate to anything?

Our other customers in the community want people who have a good general stock of knowledge they can call on for unexpected needs. Being able to cope with unexpected needs means learning things that may not be immediately needed. You need to stop worrying about whether you need it now and begin worrying about whether your boss might need it later.

*C:  The Instructor Was Not Entertaining

R:  You are probably right.  University faculty are not entertainers.  A university instructor's responsibility is to provide students with the tools necessary to understand the topics addressed in the course in a professional manner (fairly, coherently, using up-to-date information, and yes, in as exciting and engaging and enthusiastic a manner as possible).  Expecting them to be entertainers is naive, misses the point of a university education, and negates the student's responsibility towards their own learning.  You can tell we're not entertainers because we aren't paid like entertainers.  A ticket to attend a lecture doesn't cost as much as a ticket to attend a play or a concert (if every student paid $50 a ticket for admission to attend every lecture we'd be rich!).  If you want to while away a few hours a week being entertained, stay home and play with your game boy or watch daytime television or engaging in some other diversion.  If you want to learn something come to class.*

C:  I Paid Good Money for This Course and I Deserve a Good Grade

R:  Right on! And ---

Almost everything you pay for in life is an entry fee. What happens next is up to you. Buy a Porsche and never change the oil and see what happens. Get a triple bypass and keep on with a diet of Lienies Red, bratwurst and cheese, Camel straights, and Korbel brandy - you'll be back.

C:  All I Want is the Diploma

R:  The work force is full of people who do the minimum necessary to get by. Give me one reason why I, as a citizen or consumer, should help create more of them?

Call me elitist, but there are a lot more people who want good jobs than there are good jobs to go around. I think society has a perfect right to reserve those positions for people who demonstrate a commitment to excellence.

For people who want to get by on the minimum, there's a reward already established. It's called the minimum wage.

BLOOM'S TAXONOMY:  Levels of Thinking (adapted from a similar page created by Paul Kaldjian)


 1. KNOWLEDGE:  Remembering by recall or recognition: requires memory only

Verbs: Define, identify, recall, recognize: Who? What? Where? When?

Example: Define a species OR define permeability.

Knowledge consists of facts, conventions, jargon, technical terms, classifications, categories, and criteria. Knowledge is necessary but not sufficient for solving problems. The ability to answer questions based in knowledge correlates only with a student's memorization skill.  


Letter grade equivalent:  If this is all you do and you do it perfectly, you might get a D.


2. COMPREHENSION:  Grasping the literal message; requires rephrasing or rewording

Verbs: Describe, compare, contrast, in your own words

Example: What is the difference between commensalism and mutualism or compare and contrast drumlins and kames.

Comprehension is the ability to understand the meaning of material, but not necessarily to solve problems or relate it to other material. An individual who comprehends something can paraphrase in his or her own words. Information and experimental data can be interpreted, trends and tendencies can be extended or extrapolated. While comprehension is a higher order skill than knowledge, it appears that knowledge is required for comprehension. Testing for comprehension includes essay questions and the interpretation of paragraphs or data.


Letter grade equivalent:  If you get this far you probably have a shot at a C.


3. APPLICATION:  Requires use or application of knowledge to reach an answer or solve a problem

Verbs: Write an example, apply, classify

Example: Draw a population pyramid for a country with high birth and death rates or classify regional climates with respect to available energy and water.

 Application is the use of abstract ideas in particular concrete situations. Many straightforward problems with a single solution and a single part fit into this level. Application usually requires remembering and applying ideas, principles and theories.


Letter grade equivalent:  Now you're getting somewhere, solid performance.  Definite C.


4. ANALYSIS:  Separate a complex whole into parts; identify motives or causes; determine evidence

Verbs: Analyze, support, draw conclusions

Example: What contributes to low rates of human population increase or why do glaciers sometimes retreat and sometimes advance. 

Analysis often consists of breaking down a complex problem into parts. Each part can then be further broken down or be solved by application of geographic (or other) principles. In addition, the connections and interactions between the different parts can be determined.


Letter grade equivalent:  You are probably above average if you get to this level.  You are probably within the B range in upper division courses, maybe even the A range in large lecture format introductory level courses.


5. SYNTHESIS:  Produce original communication, solve a problem (more than one possible answer)

Verbs: Write, design, predict, develop

Example: Propose a realistic and just solution to the conflict between the logging industry and the environmentalists in the North American Pacific Northwest.

Synthesis involves taking many pieces and putting them together to make a new whole. One problem for the professor in teaching synthesis is that there is no longer a single correct answer. Many students, (particularly at the lower levels in Perry's scheme of intellectual development) find synthesis difficult because the process is open-ended and there is no single answer.


Letter grade equivalent:  If you can demonstrate this level of thinking in a 100 level course you undoubtedly will have earned an A.  The trick will be for you to be able to demonstrate it when given multiple choice and short answer tests.


6. EVALUATION:  Make judgments, offer opinions

Verbs: Judge, decide, evaluate, assess

Example: Assess the role of the media on your understanding of environmental hazards or how would you decide appropriate land use for floodplains.

Evaluation is a judgment about a solution, process, design, report, material, and so forth. The judgment can be based on external or internal criteria. Is the solution logically correct? Is the solution free from mathematical errors? Is the report grammatically correct and easy to understand? Is the argument properly documented? In many problems the evaluation requires external criteria such as analysis of both economics and environmental impact.


Letter grade equivalent:  See LGE for number 5 above.

Goals of the baccalaureate

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire baccalaureate degrees share eleven (11) goals.   General Education courses (such as this one) are designed to meet some (but not all) of these goals.  In addition, each UWEC student is expected to keep a portfolio of class assignments, projects, and other materials that demonstrate how they have met these goals through courses they have taken.  The goals are listed in the table below along with references to particular assignments that you could save to demonstrate work toward that particular goal.


The baccalaureate experience will provide students with:

Course Content that addresses the goal
An understanding of a liberal education An interdisciplinary approach is emphasized throughout this course   
An Appreciation of the University as a learning community Guest speakers and other outside class time activities as assigned (usually as optional opportunities to earn participation points)
An ability to inquire, think, analyze Ecofootprint, Garbology, Green Auto assignment
An ability to write, read, speak, listen Lecture, tests, assignments, participation in class discussions
An understanding of numerical data Various graphs shown in lecture and assigned in the text
A historical consciousness Particularly Part 2 lecture topics
An international and intercultural experience Particularly in Part 1 lecture topics
An understanding of science and the scientific method This is a GE-II Natural Science course.  The instructor is a scientist.  Enough said.
A appreciation for the arts Some outside class time activities as assigned (usually as optional opportunities to earn participation points)
An understanding of values Lecture topics and assignments provide an opportunity for student to explore (dare I say develop?) their own environmental ethic
An understanding of human behavior and human institutions Lecture topics, particularly in Part 3

Subject to change without notice

Created by Don Porschien

Last updated 5 January 06

Send comments to runningl@uwec.edu

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