InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Climate of Change > Assessment
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This module is part of a growing collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
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Assessment of Module Goals

Below, you will find a list of assessments for each unit of the module, as well as assessments for the module as a whole. Each unit has associated with it formative and/or summative assessments to measure student progress toward individual unit learning outcomes. Additionally, the three embedded assessment questions below are particularly helpful at measuring student progress toward key points of understanding in the overall module. These questions focus specifically on the role of humans in climate change, the ENSO cycle, and the role of feedbacks in climate variability and change. Finally, to assess overall learning in this module, you will find a summative assessment question directly related to the overriding module goal. This question directly assesses how well students can integrate what they have learned about climate science with societal impacts of climate variability and climate change.

Overall Module Assessments

Summative Assessment

Using one or more labeled diagrams, describe a climate system process (or an interaction between two climate system components) that might lead to climate variability or climate change, and explain our difficulties in understanding this process. Describe two ways that changes in that process might impact/have impacted human societies and two ways that humans might mitigate the effects of or adapt to those changes.

(Note: instructors may choose to separate this summative assessment into two questions to facilitate grading.)

Summative Assessment Grading Rubric


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Embedded Assessments

Level 1 Assessment:

Humans have the power to affect climate change by

A. decreasing the amount of incoming solar radiation, which causes cooling.

B. increasing the amount of incoming solar radiation, which causes warming.

C. adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, which cause warming.

D. adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, which cause cooling.

E. no possible means.

Level 2 Assessment:

Does this ocean surface anomaly map display El Niño, ENSO normal, or La Niña conditions, and how do you know? Where will precipitation fall if these anomalous temperatures remain in place?

Level 3 Assessment:

Sketch and label a feedback diagram associated with increasing the level of atmospheric CO2. Indicate on the diagram if the feedback from increasing CO2 is positive or negative. Explain the importance of these feedbacks in understanding uncertainties in projections of future climate.

Embedded Assessment Grading Rubric


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Unit Assessments

Note: Rubrics for these unit assessments are presented on the individual unit pages.

Unit 1 Assessments:

Assessment on article reading (may be done orally, or as a written essay for a homework assignment or exam):

(1) Learning Outcome #1: Students should be able to describe the impacts of climate on the three early civilizations (people of the Andes, Mayans, Norse). Specifically, students should explain how the Andean people adapted to the cyclic occurrence of El Niño by developing a forecasting system, how drought led to the end of the Mayan civilization, and how the end of the Medieval Warm Period led to the abandonment of Greenland by the Norse. They should also be able to hypothesize as to why the Inuit continued to live in Greenland, when the Norse were forced to leave.

Possible exam questions:

(2) Learning Outcome #2: List three factors that lead to a forced climate change. Also state whether these factors are natural or anthropogenic.

(3) Learning Outcome #3: Diagram a feedback in the climate system. Explain how it works and whether it is a positive or negative feedback.

Unit 2 Assessments:

Assessments from student activity sheets:

(1) Learning Objective #1: Student handouts for activities have questions that require students to describe locations of anomalies and identify cycles of change. Students who can complete these tasks have adequately met the first learning objective.

(2) Learning Objective #2: See student activity handouts. Students must be able to identify cycles of change on a Hovmöller diagram, or on a diagram that they create themselves. They must identify the time frame of change, and the fact that there are changes.

Possible exam questions:

(3) Learning Objective #3: Why do changes in pressure affect precipitation in the tropical Pacific? How frequently does this change occur, and what regions experience the greatest impacts?

(4) Learning Objective #4: Define anomaly, and explain why it is important to look at anomalies when examining climate data.

Unit 3 Assessments:

(1) What is La Niña, and why does it occur? Draw a diagram to illustrate your explanation, and give an example of how La Niña has impacted people in a particular place and time.

(2) Does this ocean surface anomaly map display El Niño, ENSO normal, or La Niña conditions, and how do you know? Where will precipitation fall if these anomalous temperatures remain in place?

(3) ENSO can become part of the geologic record through

A. flooding that leaves behind sediment deposits

B. flooding that scours away sediment deposits

C. drought-induced fires, which leave behind burnt soils and sediments

D. both A & C

E. no known means

(4) Of the following, all are components of ENSO except

A. sea surface temperature

B. tradewinds

C. jet stream

D. upwelling

E. thermocline

Unit 4 Assessments:

(1) Which of the following sets of conditions should result in the highest ice sheet albedo?

A. summer, low elevation, exposed ice sheet

B. winter, high elevation, snow covering the ice sheet

C. summer, high elevation, snow covering the ice sheet

D. winter, low elevation, exposed ice sheet

(2) Your instructor has provided you with a blank grid with months of the year on the x-axis and albedo (low vs. high) on the y-axis.

(a) Consider a high-latitude area north of the equator, such as Greenland. On the grid, make a sketch illustrating how surface albedo in this area changes during the year.

(b) Describe how the 2012 albedo data for the Greenland ice sheet varied for high-elevation areas compared to low-elevation areas.

Unit 5 Assessments:

(1) What is a climate feedback? Give one example of a feedback loop, and explain the difference between positive and negative feedbacks.

(2) List the data sets displayed on this graph. How do these data relate to one another? Describe their possible implications for our future.

(3) Climate models involve

A. known climate interactions

B. known climate thresholds

C. known climate feedbacks

D. many possible outcomes

E. all of the above

(4) Humans have the power to affect climate change by

A. decreasing the amount of incoming solar radiation, which causes cooling.

B. increasing the amount of incoming solar radiation, which causes warming.

C. adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, which cause warming.

D. adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, which cause cooling.

E. no possible means.

Unit 6 Assessments:

(1) There are several methods that may be used to assess the climate adaptation gallery walk. General suggestions for formal and informal assessment of gallery walks are on the SERC website. Ultimately, students should be able to describe how the insurance industry is adapting to weather- and climate-related policy claims; the flood adaptation steps being taken by the Netherlands; strategies used by cities of various sizes (Chicago, New York City, Wangaratta) to adapt to heat waves; and adaptive agricultural responses to drought. This could be assessed orally (for example, at the end of the class meeting as students summarize the answers to the posted gallery walk questions), as a short-answer question on an exam, or as a written homework assignment.

(2) The following items represent hypothetical strategies to address climate change. Classify each as either a climate change mitigation strategy or a climate change adaptation strategy by placing an X in the appropriate box.

Mitigation vs Adaptation Strategy Chart

(3) short answer question: adaptation in Providence, RI (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 380kB Sep15 12)


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This module is part of a growing collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »