The Truth about Climate and the Honors Tutorials

Based on the “Oxford style” of teaching, Honors Tutorials are comprised of three to five students who delve deeply into a topic with an MU faculty member. The size of the class creates unique opportunities for dialogue and understanding that aren’t possible in a larger setting.

Faculty member Dr. Steve Keller is currently teaching a tutorial on climate change, GN Hon 2010H: The ‘Truth’ about Climate Change. While a chemistry professor at heart, Dr. Keller always wanted to explore the science of climate change, but his large Chemistry courses lacked the space and time. Enter the Honors Tutorials.

Tutorials presented an opportunity Dr. Keller could not resist: a chance to share his knowledge about the science and the politics behind climate change. A chance where, as Dr. Keller puts it, “[students] explore the past, present, and future of climate.”

Dr. Keller’s tutorial covers multiple aspects of climate change, including business and international politics with expert guest speakers such as Professor Michael Urban (University of Missouri) and Professor Amy Prieto (Colorado State). Meanwhile, Dr. Keller provides important context to some of the course’s supplementary materials to help students interpret and understand the jumble of climate change information in media.

In his tutorial, students are exposed to climate data and tutored in its interpretation. The tutorial allows them to get past the perceived “culture war” related to climate change and dissect the issue from a neutral standpoint.

Students sit in auditorium and watch climate panel on stage

With lots of misinformation floating around, two people can look at the same evidence and come to completely different conclusions.

“[Climate change] seems like an argument over the facts,” Keller says. “Not many groups know what to do with [climate data] once they have it.”

Dr. Keller’s teaching, like many Honors Tutorials, is not traditional.

“The class is more of a conversational kind of thing,” he says. “We have presentations students give and a short writing assignment, but ultimately I’m looking for everyone to talk.”

For most of the class, students are the ones leading the conversation and providing their own insights into climate change.

With more freedom to use alternative methods of instruction, Dr. Keller and other Honors Tutorial professors provide a unique experience for students. Dr. Keller’s tutorial takes full advantage of this. His class attended part of the Mizzou Theatre department’s Climate Change Theatre Action Project, which combines segments of 13 different plays in an effort to bring climate activism to a more accessible and relatable venue.

Unrivaled access to faculty and a diverse array of topics makes the Honors Tutorials an integral part of how the Mizzou Honors College stands out.