Using the Guidelines for Excellence in College Courses


Using the Guidelines for Excellence in College Courses

Upon returning from a wonderful conference in Lexington and reflecting on all the joyous reunions with so many colleagues, I have a story to share to hopefully encourage you to think about using the NAAEE Guidelines for Excellence.  I shared this story during Renee Strnad & I’s presentation on Using the Guidelines for Excellence in College Courses during the NAAEE conference.

When I began teaching the REC345: Environmental Education course at Humboldt State University, I needed some kind of framework and decided to use the NAAEE Guidelines for Excellence. The first semester I taught the course I used the Preparation & Professional Development of Environmental Educators Guidelines to quickly realize the disparity of knowledge, skills, and abilities between my students and the guidelines.  There was no way in 15 weeks that I would be able to close the gap!

The next semester I used the K-12 Learning Guidelines along with the EE Materials guidelines. The student evaluations provided a consistent message of this is not a science course; this is not an education course. The following time I taught the course, I decided to use the Non-formal EE Programs guidelines and the course worked incredibly well.

In 2015, I attended the NAAEE conference in San Diego and saw the Guidelines Trainers’ Bureau ribbon on attendees’ name tags. What is that I thought? I use the guidelines and I have never been trained! I was introduced to Bora Simmons who offered to come to Humboldt State to facilitate a training on the guidelines.  It was like a ray of sunshine shining down on me; I had been creating activities all on my own, but there were many resources and activities already created to assist in training individuals on the guidelines! 

The following semester, the course was amazing and continues to be the model I follow. I integrate the Non-formal EE Programs Guidelines into the course making a 6-hour workshop into a fifteen-week workshop. For more helpful tips on how to integrate the guidelines into your work feel free to contact me or check out the slides from our presentation, Using the Guidelines in College Classrooms, from the 2019 NAAEE Conference.


Meeting all of the Guidelines for Professional Development would be a big stretch in one 15-week class. I offer a full semester of four 15-week classes, all devoted to different aspects of EE, and aftre all fourc courses, we can just get the undergrads to meet all the requirements at a sufficiently high level. One environmental science class is dedicated to ecology, one education class to Foundations of EE (as well as learning theories, pedagogy, and assessment theories), one education class to professional development, and the last education class to curriculum planning and assessment (with lots of hands-on teaching and reflections). With all four classes, students write CAEE portfolios, which are based on the Guidelines, and easily meet the state certified level, but only about 1/3 can complete all the requirements for state master-level certification.