So, what have you learned?

What we have come to call student learning outcomes, at least as I understand them, invite teachers and academic programs to articulate for students the expected attitudes and habits of mind, knowledge, and skills and competencies that they will be expected to learn in a course.

To be quite honest, this kind of language does not acknowledge the unique ways that a group of students make sense of the literary and cultural materials I teach. That is, I am far more interested in your own assessment of what you have learned in the course. On the one hand, your prefaces and essays offer one version of what you have learned—in every case, these essays chronicle your thinking about (and with) the books and essays and poems we read this semester. Another version of what you have learned is the list below that attempts to capture the attitudes and habits of mind, knowledge and understanding, as well as skills and competencies that you recorded during our final class session.

Attitudes and Habits of Mind

The environment is everywhere and I am in it

Not to be afraid of what we don’t know and what we do not want to hear

We are not separate from the world but are a part of it and we need to start acting as if this is true

Greater awareness of self and greater awareness of the more-than-human world

Greater awareness of the unknown and comfort with the unknown

Greater awareness of what is going on in our society that harms the more-then-human world and that we have to come together to figure out solutions

Instinctual urge to save the body that nurtures and sustains our life

Knowledge is power and what we do with that power is what will make a difference

The truth is difficult and it is hard to recognize that the problems are because of the way we live our lives. We have made the world the way it is and that is a hard truth to swallow

To become comfortable in the larger questions of life

Knowing and Understanding

I learned about (and learned from) new authors that I had never known about before

I learned to appreciate the many forms of environmental writing: including poems, essays, novels, and memoirs

I understand the origins and history of the environmental movement in the United Sates and the social movements of environmentalism around the world

I learned that the natural world has much to teach us and that we can learn how to be open to how it teaches us

I learned about the responsibility we have to both ourselves and to the more-than-human world

I understand the wild as the ultimate and most powerful force in our lives and in the world around us

I understand environmental issues as social issues

I understand that we are the environment, we are of it and we are in it

I understand that the idea of nature is socially constructed

I learned about the problems that lie within our current understanding of nature as a social construct (and what we falsely recognize as our inherent separation from natural processes)

I understand that the “human privilege” (anthropocentrism) that we have bestowed upon ourselves is the root of the environmental crisis

I understand environmental responsibility as having good manners in a human and more-than-human world, as etiquette, as Gary Snyder describes it in the essay “The Etiquette of Freedom”

Skills and Competencies

I read by listening to what the text says and make meaning through listening and thinking and writing

I read with an awareness of the inter-relatability of the context and the content of a text

I write from the words of the writer and editor Ed Hogan: “Know what you are doing and do it well”

I write as a process of self evaluation, self-identification, and self recognition

I write to find a place in the world and to articulate thought

I write for general audiences by cultivating a point of view and a distinctive voice or presence

I write not to forget about an essay or throw it away but to write in a place (a blog) where it is never over, so I was never motivated to never want to stop perfecting it