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Environmental Forensics : Mock Trial of a Chromium Contamination Case as a Tool for Interdisciplinary Teaching and Improvement of Soft Skills

Title data

Leon Ninin, Jose M. ; Colina Blanco, Andrea Ester ; Held, Andreas ; Planer-Friedrich, Britta:
Environmental Forensics : Mock Trial of a Chromium Contamination Case as a Tool for Interdisciplinary Teaching and Improvement of Soft Skills.
In: Journal of Chemical Education. Vol. 99 (2022) Issue 10 . - pp. 3452-3460.
ISSN 1938-1328
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.jchemed.2c00275

Abstract in another language

Environmental forensics is the application of knowledge from geosciences and chemistry in a legal setting, e.g., to determine the origin and consequences of contamination events. Teaching environmental forensics requires reactivating prior knowledge from different fields of natural sciences, filling knowledge gaps, and connecting pieces of scientific evidence to form logical chains of arguments. Here, we present a cooperative teaching format that successfully covers the challenges of interdisciplinary teaching while further developing learners’ soft skills. Through role-playing in a mock trial of a famous hexavalent chromium [Cr(VI)] contamination case in California, learners choose to team with the town of Hinkley, as the plaintiff team, or with Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), the company accused of the contamination, as the defense team. After introductory sessions, the teams summarize facts, and build and present arguments to support their claims regarding the formation of the Cr(VI) plume, the impact on the population’s health, and remediation efforts taken by PG&E. These arguments are delivered in front of their peers and instructors, acting as judges, in a mock trial. Here, we summarize different modalities that have been tested over the past 10 years regarding role assignment and team building. This teaching format has been shown to be successful in engaging learners with the scientific aspects of the case-based trial while helping them become critical about information they are confronted with, delivering arguments in structured ways, defending their points of view, and improving communication skills on a peer- and layperson-level.

Further data

Item Type: Article in a journal
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Role-play; Mock trial; Soft skills; Chain-of-arguments; Environmental forensics; Hinkley; Chromium
Institutions of the University: Faculties > Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences > Department of Earth Sciences > Professor Environmental Geochemistry Group
Faculties > Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences > Department of Earth Sciences > Professor Environmental Geochemistry Group > Professor Environmental Geochemistry - Univ.-Prof. Dr. Britta Planer-Friedrich
Research Institutions > Research Centres > Bayreuth Center of Ecology and Environmental Research- BayCEER
Faculties
Faculties > Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences
Faculties > Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences > Department of Earth Sciences
Research Institutions
Research Institutions > Research Centres
Result of work at the UBT: Yes
DDC Subjects: 500 Science > 550 Earth sciences, geology
Date Deposited: 13 Oct 2022 05:11
Last Modified: 14 Oct 2022 07:01
URI: https://eref.uni-bayreuth.de/id/eprint/72415