Challenges to Anticipate and Solve

Challenge #1: Timing of role and group assignment. In order for students to have time to do group work, they will need to be placed into groups early.  As designed, students choose their own roles that are used to break them into groups, and might have trouble developing a character earlier in the class if they have less previous knowledge of the topic. 

There are a number of possible solutions to this challenge.  If it is possible, students enjoy the opportunity to be creative in choosing their own roles, especially if a list of examples is provided to get them started.  Students are also given a list of existing stakeholders who submitted public comments to the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy (available at http://www.oceancommission.gov/publicomment/).  In order to streamline the exercise, the instructor can pre-assign their roles or allow them to choose from an existing list of roles.  Students can be given the materials in support of the exercise earlier in the course to allow them to make their decision in advance of the actual exercise

It is also likely that if students choose their own roles, the groups will become “unbalanced,” with many more students in the “pro-marine reserve” groups than the more economically concerned groups.  In order to balance the groups, the professor can ask for volunteers to “switch sides,” and provide encouragement for students to choose a position that is different from their own.

We have found that groups as small as four have worked quite effectively.  Once the groups are as large as eight, it becomes more difficult to coordinate meetings and have equal participation in the presentation.

Challenge #2: Working in groups. As is often noted with group work, there are known difficulties that stem from different work styles and personalities.  This is true of this simulation, where students will be assessed on a plan developed by their group. 

A few possible solutions to this challenge is to spend some time in class discussing the importance and difficulties of group work, provide technological solutions (e.g. electronic message boards) to foster communication outside of class, and encourage students to explicitly divide tasks for different individuals.  A confidential evaluation form (an example is provided in the file evaluation_form.doc) can be distributed at the end of the exercise and in cases of extreme differences in participation, different grades can be assigned.   We usually do not act on a single negative peer review of a student, but rather look for a pattern within a group that indicates one student did not participate appropriately.  We also look for specific comments to help determine when there is a participation inequality versus a personal disagreement among group members.  This form was adapted Exhibit B.2 from Team-Based Learning: a Transformative Use of Small Groups edited by Michaelsen, Knight, and Fink.  Consider reviewing the ideas presented in Appendix B of this book for more discussion of the peer review issue.

We have found that the confidential peer review approach is most effective if the students see the evaluation forms at the beginning of the assignment and are aware that there are consequences of not contributing.  Most students are affected by the knowledge that their individual contribution will be considered, which improves the dynamic of the group.  In addition, there is an optional exercise that allows for an opportunity for individual assessment. 

Challenge #3: Antagonistic Characters. Some stakeholder groups have requested not to present a marine reserve plan since their position is that reserves are not effective or are harmful to marine conservation.  We have found that it is useful to have some bounds on what we are asking of the students, so we have asked these groups to produce a reserve plan despite their reservations.  However, we have worked with those groups to come up with some creative approaches to the assignment that are consistent with their characters’ positions.  For example, one group of fishermen designated locations that they would not give up, leaving the rest of the area open for negotiation.  One group of fishermen designated areas they were willing to close, but stated their opposition to UMEPA in general.  Both proposed more traditional methods of fisheries management, such as quotas and transferable vessel quotas. 

Allowing some flexibility, with instructor guidance, has worked well to keep the arguments consistent and interesting.


Introducing the Experiment to Your Students

The theories of marine reserve design are introduced in a lecture that includes examples of existing designs.  This can be done at a variety of depths, depending on the goals and subject of the course.  Students are assigned readings in advance that include one summary paper that all students read (PISCO reference given in the “Useful Websites” section), and a number of choices for a second reading from a variety of perspectives (the list of other citations in the References Section).  This way, students come to their groups with wider individual backgrounds.  In addition, the assignment is provided early to prepare students for the various steps involved. 

Students then are asked to choose their characters and hand in a paragraph with a short description of their position.  The professor uses these paragraphs to break the students into groups of like-minded characters.

Students should be encouraged to incorporate ecological concepts in their plans, including natural history of the species highlighted in the exercise and the oceanography and community ecology involved in marine reserves.  Note that all species mentioned in the exercise, with the exception of the Chihuly glass snail, are real and can be studied using outside research.  A summary of the natural history of these species is provided and can either be distributed to the students, or retained by the instructor for reference if independent student research is expected.  Note that this is a simulation, and therefore balances realism with a simplified system that allows students to focus on specific issues.

In order to encourage outside research, and to provide a check on the progress of the groups, a reference list can be collected before the debate.  This will allow the professor to provide feedback early in the exercise and keep the students on task.  It can also be used for formative evaluation to determine if the exercise is meeting the goals of teaching students about marine reserves and how to create an argument using evidence.  These reference lists can also be added to the suggested reading to keep the exercise current.


Data Collection and Analysis Methods Used in the Experiment

In order to make the map somewhat realistic, actual data from the California Channel Islands were used to create the coastline, bathymetry, and bottom type map in GIS.  Currents, fisheries and population data, and biodiversity information were created to spur interesting debate about the tradeoffs involved in designing marine protected areas.



Questions for Further Thought

The list of debate questions are given to the students beforehand, and are asked during the debate, as well as more specific questions that come up during the presentation.  It is difficult for any one reserve plan to be strong in all seven of these questions.  Students should be pressed to explicitly acknowledge the tradeoffs they needed to make, especially in the context of the goals of their characters.

Some examples of acceptable answers include:

Biodiversity and Habitat Fisheries Human Experience
Within the reserve Protection from harmful uses leads to increased biodiversity and habitat health.  Larger and more abundant individuals of many species. No fishing allowed, so fisheries are closed—most effects outside of reserve.  However, fish within the reserve are larger and more abundant, leading to more production and possible spillover. Better habitat and increased biodiversity increases recreational and educational opportunities.  No take does not mean that there is no access, just no harvesting.
Outside of the reserve Possible spillover will improve nearby habitats/biodiversity, but otherwise, most effects within reserve. Spillover leads to improved fishing.  “Fishing the Line.” More consistency in catch. Possible improvement of recreation due to spillover (see biodiversity).  Satisfaction of conservation.  Economic benefits of healthy reserve.  Improved tourism, seafood and employment opportunities.

Some examples of acceptable answers include:

Some examples of acceptable answers include:


Assessment of Student Learning Outcomes

The rubric for the individual assignment is fairly simple and includes both content and writing.  For each category, select a point value from 1-5.  Multiply the points by the weight for a total possible score of 100.  This can easily be scaled to any number of points as needed.

The presentation rubric was designed to streamline the process of taking notes during the debate, which can be challenging.  Many of the common issues in student presentations are listed on the rubric, allowing the teacher to circle the items of concern quickly.  Usually, this completed rubric is returned to the groups, along with a short paragraph with more specific comments for their consideration.

It can be challenging to check a box for each item given that there are multiple students with different levels of performance.  It is possible to check multiple boxes and use the comments section to note more specific thoughts. 

The score given for each column can be weighted according to the preference of the teacher.  It is often useful to have an “exceeds standards” option for students who perform exceptionally, and to have the point difference between “exceeds standards” and “meets standards” be lower than that between “meets standards” and “approaches standards.”  The weight given to each row can vary according to the goals of the teacher.  The total score can vary depending on how many points are given for each row.

For both rubrics, the weight given for each component can be adjusted according to the goals of the instructor.


Evaluation of the Lab Activity

This assignment lends itself to inviting other faculty members to participate in the debate.  The “Udubia Fisheries Commission” can be a single teacher, or a panel of other faculty who are willing to participate in the exercise.  This provides for a good opportunity for other faculty members to observe the exercise and provide feedback, especially for junior faculty.  In addition, student reference lists can be used to determine the quality of student research and their grasp of some of the major topics in the exercise.


Translating the Activity to Other Institutional Scales or Locations

This assignment has been used in its present long format, as well as in a few shorter modified formats for different purposes.  The long format has been used as a major module of a 40-person, majors and non-majors conservation biology class and is currently being adopted for a 60 student lecture oceanography course at a community college.  The shorter format was used for a one-hour exercise in an oceanography class (40 students) and an introductory biology class (60 students), with no additional lecture or out of class time used.  

The assignment can be given in an abridged format in a number of ways.  It is possible to limit the layers of data (one or two fisheries datasets, for example) given to the students.  Students can be pre-assigned into groups with known positions to streamline the beginning of the process for students with less background in the subject matter.  One approach used by a professor who adapted this exercise was to provide the students with a color copy of the map and a black and white copy on an overhead transparency.  Students could map out their priority reserve areas on the overheads and then stack the results for the different stakeholder groups on a projector to look for overlaps.  Students can be asked to answer the seven debate questions (see “Materials and Methods”) in short written minute essays or for a homework assignment.

2)  Udubia is a hypothetical place, although it was designed with U.S. West Coast fisheries, habitat types (e.g., kelp) and social considerations in mind.  All of the location names are based on landmarks familiar to University of Washington students, although there is little substantive information associated with these names.  The content would not be significantly different in most developed countries and could be adopted directly without alterations, although teachers might prefer to give the simulation a more local flavor.

With local knowledge, the fish listed in the datasets could be converted to fish from any given area, as long as the species served similar ecological functions.  For example, tuna were chosen to be a migratory species that would be transient in a given reserve (and therefore not the best candidate for protection with a marine reserve), while lobsters and rockfish were considered to be relatively sedentary and associated with the highly diverse kelp forest.  The Pacific ocean perch and halibut were associated with high relief and sandy habitats, respectively.  The pollock were added at the request of students whose characters were interested in protecting the food source of the northern fur seals.  The Chihuly glass snail is not a real species and its distribution was intended to create interesting conflicts.  Other fish can be substituted for these, although there is no need to have specialized knowledge of these species in order to achieve the learning outcomes for this exercise.

The exercise could also be adopted for terrestrial reserve design, although this would take considerable effort.

This is an indoor activity, so seasonal considerations are not an issue.  It is notable that this is a good exercise for locations with cold winters where field work becomes more difficult for a lot of the school year.

3)  This exercise does not necessitate the ability to walk or move more than the normal requirements of attending class.  Students with hearing disabilities might be limited in their ability to participate in a group debate.  Depending on the individual situation, an accommodation can be made for replacing the presentation with written work.

The simulation has many visual components, most notably the map.  A visually impaired student participated in this exercise with little need for special accommodation, although a larger version of the map was provided to her.  Students who are blind might need particular help navigating the map.

4)  Pre-college students would be able to participate in this simulation.  Depending on the level of the class, a more abridged format as described in #2 can be utilized.