SC/SS 115 Ethnobotany assessment ea3

Course description: Students will be able to identify, compare, and contrast the distinguishing morphological and reproductive characteristics of plants used by Micronesians; observe, describe, communicate, and experience the uses of plants in their cultural context.

  1. Program Learning Outcomes:
    1. GE 1.2 Make a clear, well organized verbal presentation.
    2. GE 3.4 Define and explain the concepts, principles, and theories of a field of science.
    3. GE 4.2 Demonstrate knowledge of the major cultural issues of a person's own culture as well as other cultures.
    4. MSP 2 Demonstrate proficiency in the geographical, historical, and cultural literacy of the Micronesian region.

      GE - General Education, MSP = Micronesian Studies Program

  2. Course Learning Outcomes:
    1. Identify local plants, their reproductive strategies, and morphology.
    2. Communicate and describe the cultural use of local plants for healing, as food, as raw materials, and in traditional social contexts.

  3. CLOPLO GE 1.2 PLO GE 3.4 PLO GE 4.2 PLO MSP 2
    1 I, D I
    2 I, D I, D I, D

    11.1 1.2 1.31.1
    22.1 2.2 2.32.1 2.2 2.3 2.42.1 2.2 2.3 2.4

  4. Student Learning Outcomes:
    CLO 1 Identify local plants, their reproductive strategies, and morphology.
    Deployed outlineAssessmentc1a
    Student learning outcomesAssessment strategies
    1.1 Identify local plants by local and scientific names. Oral question and answer during field experiences. Tests during the term. Final examination. 96% participation in field trips ,
    92% participation in hikes ,
    88% participation in outdoor gardening ,
    63% of the students (n = 24) exceeded 70% on test one,
    58% of the students (n = 24) exceeded 70% on test two,
    Avg. local name success rate on final: Chuukic (n=2) 100%, Kosraean (n=3) 100%, Pohnpeian (n=20) 98%, Polynesian (n=0) NA, Yapese (n=0) NA.c1b
    1.2 Compare and contrast the distinguishing reproductive characteristics of different phyla of plants including mosses, seedless vascular plants, gymnosperms, and angiosperms. Presentations done in class by students. Identification of reproductive parts during field experiences. Assessed by oral question and answer during hikes, specific questions on tests one and two. Not analyzed.
    1.3 Label the key morphological features of the different phyla of plants including mosses, seedless vascular plants, gymnosperms, and angiosperms including the morphology of the reproductive structures. Test questions that require students to sketch and label the reproductive structures. Assessed by specific questions on test two. Not analyzed.

    CLO 2 Communicate and describe the cultural use of local plants for healing, as food, as raw materials, and in traditional social contexts.
    Deployed outlineAssessmentc2a
    Student learning outcomesAssessment strategies
    2.1 Communicate and describe the healing uses of local plants and the cultural contexts in which that healing occurs. Students perform individual presentations on healing plants from their culture. 100% (n = 25) of the students presented.
    2.2 Contribute, participate in, and experience eating local food made from plants and describe the production process. Students work in groups to bring in a plant based food, perform a presentation on the production process, and share the food with the class. 100% (n = 25) of the students presented.
    2.3 Communicate and describe the use of plants for transportation, for shelter, and in other material culture applications. Students perform individual presentations on plants and the resulting products used in material culture from their culture, students engage in learning to produce a material cultural item from a plant. 96% (n = 24) of the students engaged in an activity where they learned to produce local thatch, 96% (n = 24) of the students made presentations on material culture.
    2.4 Describe and observe the use, role, and importance of psychoactive plants within their traditional ceremonial cultural contexts. Students engage in a field experience to observe the use of a plant in a traditional ceremonial cultural context. 96% (n = 24) of the students participated.


c1a CLO 1 assessment is evidenced in part by photographic evidence of participation.

c1b Success rates were based on correctly identifying sixteen plants by local name. The meta-assessment is that there is a diversity issue in the class. The class benefits by being multi-cultural, the class is however dominated by a single culture. 80% of the students are from Pohnpei state with none from Nukuoro or Kapinga. Three of the five students from other states actually live on Pohnpei, with two of them having grown up on Pohnpei. These three were also able to name plants in Pohnpeian. Only two of the twenty-five students, 8%, were raised and lived outside of Pohnpei. Both also learned Pohnpeian names for their plants as a result of the course.

The text remained unavailable throughout the term, thus students had to learn in the ethnobotanically traditional manner of listening and learning. This is often the case in the course as rain prevents bringing textbooks and taking notes during the field experiences.

c2a CLO 2 assessment is evidenced almost wholly by the links to photographic reports of the activity.


On a longer scale than a single term, the course continues to change. Over the years the knowledge set possessed by the students has decreased, loss of cultural knowledge is happening in real time.

Over time the role of the instructor as a presenter of knowledge has increased. That is, however, culturally sensitive. For some cultures it is inappropriate for an outsider to that culture to reveal the knowledge of that culture.

The class is also increasingly monocultural. Performing compare and contrast activities between cultures, which was a staple of the course eight years ago, is no longer easily possible.

Diversity brings learning benefits to the class. Each term the course fills to capacity early in pre-registration. As there may be better awareness of the existence of the course here on Pohnpei, pre-registration may contribute in part to the increasingly monocultural composition of the class.

At the start of the term this has raised the question as to whether to increase diversity by adding students via lifting the capacity cap on the course. This would be beneficial to learning but then would raise a swirl of questions related to "affirmative action" or what some might term "reverse monocultural discrimination."

At a deeper level, the central tension is whether a multi-cultural course that values and promotes traditional cultures can avoid be implicitly divisive, segregational, and potentially discriminatory. This risk is tacitly visible when a plant has a name and use in one culture and the name and use are lost in another culture. The potential take-away message that one culture is stronger and more intact.

Increased diversity can provide some emotional cushioning as students find that other cultures too are experiencing devolution - the loss of cultural knowledge. This past term one particular cultural group was significantly weaker than the dominant monocultural group. This was not an optimal learning situation.

As an instructor I am keenly aware of above sensitivities and issues and that I must direct the learning in an appropriate, supportive, equitable, and culturally sensitive manner.


Fall 2010 was the first term in which a student had physical mobility issues. This led to minor modifications of the course activities. The most strenuous hike was shortened, and other field experiences were modified in various minor way to accommodate the individual. The individual could walk, but not for any distance nor on uneven ground without experiencing pain. Adapting the course was a learning experience for the instructor.

The forests and bogs of Pohnpei are not particularly accessible, with some areas being difficult for students without physical challenges.

Special note

Each term the cultural ceremony is a unique cultural learning experience. This term was particularly poignant. The class had made a host request early in the term. Subsequent to the request, the spouse of the host passed away not more than three weeks prior to the ceremony. The host had the option to ask the class to find a new location, but the host did not make this request. The host went ahead and welcomed the class. The occasion was an all too real opportunity to see the importance of a plant in a culture and a family actively dealing with their loss through the ceremony. The host spent the evening with the class and all came to better understand the unique role that a plant can play in the emotional life of a traditional community. For everyone, this was a true learning experience and an emotive event. I remain in debt to the host for his kindness, generosity, and for permitting us to intrude at this most difficult time.