Center-Wide Core Competency

An Overview

One of the NOAA-ECSC's main educational tools includes the training and the dissemination of specific knowledge and skill based competencies for all student participants. The NOAA-ECSC's strategy is to build upon ongoing research projects and existing programs at the partnering institutions that are directly relevant to the needs of NOAA and related employers through the use of the NOAA-ECSC Center Wide Core Competency (CWCC) course. The CWCC course focuses on coastal and marine ecosystem dynamics (classroom based) and field research methodologies (field based) as basic core competencies for all NOAA-ECSC students. The course is topically based, looking at the various demands placed on coastal systems by human uses, as well as anthropogenic stresses and ecosystem processes and services. Focus area leaders and their respective faculty and staff participants contribute content to the course. The curriculum is then tailored to focus on the training in the related focus area disciplines.


The CWCC course is held at the Florida State University Coastal and Marine Lab and involved students from each NOAA-ECSC institution and across several academic backgrounds (B.S., M.S., J.D., Ph.D.). Roughly 17 students as well as 10 faculty and staff were on hand throughout the duration of the course. During the initial stages, the students were required to take a pre-assessment exam and provide proof of boating safety certification. The pre-assessment was designed to test the students knowledge of NOAA, the Educational Partnership Program, the NOAA-ECSC and the five different focus areas.


Throughout the intensive, hands-on course, the students spent the first few days in the field learning various approaches and techniques used by scientists for site characterization and ecosystem assessment. The students were also immersed in classroom lectures and laboratory activities where they processed samples collected in field, carried out GIS mapping and modeling exercises, and participated in simulations that explored policymaking paradigms and the application of socio-economic analysis.


For their final learning project, the students took on the roles of environmental activist, land developers, fisherman and the local government to argue for/against a proposed residential development community in Franklin County, Florida. This problem based learning activity challenged the students to clearly demonstrate knowledge of the local system and integrate what they learned from the course's focus area activities. Students were expected to critically examine how these activities helped inform their position. The groups were given 20 minutes to 'pitch' their point, after which time the audience was allotted three minutes to critique the presenting group's 'pitch' using post-it notes (i.e. 'pitch and post'). This 'pitch and post' was followed by a 30 minute moderated debate.


At the end of the course, the students took a post-assessment exam to assess their learning gains and progress throughout the course. 

The most recent CWCC course was held in August 2014.

16 graduate students from our partner institutions participated.

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