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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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Cindy Shellito - Adaptations for a large lecture course

University of Northern Colorado

Summary

How often does a lecture hall full of students in an introductory science class buzz with energy? In my nearly 10 years of teaching introductory meteorology, I can say it has been rare. The activities in the Climate of Change module had students in my introductory-level General Meteorology class up and out of their seats, looking at and discussing the same data that scientists use to understand climate variability and climate change. This module prompts students to consider the broad-ranging societal impacts of climate change in the past, present, and future, and that engages them in science.

Course Information

General Meteorology is an introductory survey course in meteorology and climatology. The course meets requirements for the UNCo Liberal Arts Core (LAC) Curriculum. Most students take the course to satisfy the LAC. The course is also taken by first-year students or transfer students who are Earth Science majors emphasizing in Environmental Science, Secondary Education, or Meteorology. Geology emphasis majors are not required to take this course.

Course size: 55-72 students
Course format: Three weekly class sessions, one weekly 2 hour lab
Institution type: Public university

Course Context

What is the aim of the course?

This course is designed to help students discover Earth's atmosphere and the forces that drive changes in the weather. Much of the course focuses on helping students understand the basics of daily and seasonal changes in the atmosphere. Students learn about the tools meteorologists use on a daily basis, current weather information online, and the basics of weather forecasting. The course also covers most severe types of weather phenomena, such as tornadoes, thunderstorms, hurricanes and winter storms, and with an emphasis on how to protect yourself during severe weather. Finally, the course delves into short-term and long-term climate changes on Earth, and tries to place present-day changes in the context of what has happened in the past.

Students began the Climate of Change module after 10 weeks of instruction in introductory meteorology. Students were familiar with factors that drive weather, concepts such as radiation, stability, seasons, global general circulation, and circulation in mid-latitude storm systems. Students had experience contouring and reading weather maps, and were familiar with the process of weather forecasting.

Course Content

Key content areas in this course include the following:

Course Goals

Syllabus

UNCO General Meteorology Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 180kB Aug29 13)

InTeGrate Materials Information

Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to the Course and Tips for Implementation

The module was implemented during the 11th and 12th weeks of the semester. Students were accustomed to a lecture format during the 50 minute class period, interspersed with occasional short in-class activities or discussion. Starting about a week prior to the beginning of the module, students were told in class and in lab that the format of the class period would be changing for a couple of weeks, and to be prepared to participate. I used supplemental materials for each unit in the lab section of the class.

Below are tips and suggestions for implementing each unit in the Climate of Change module in a large class.

UNIT 1: Forecasting Climate Variability and Change: A matter of survival

UNIT 2: Deciphering short term climate variability

UNIT 3: Anomalous Behavior

UNIT 4: Slow and Steady?

UNIT 5: systems@play

The activity in Case Study 5.1 is a challenge in a large class, but worth the effort! On the day that I did this activity, there were only 38 students present. Students really need space to move around, so if you have a big class, you might look into the possibility of moving into a larger room when you do Unit 5. It is also helpful to have a TA or another professor present to help answer questions and direct students. If finding larger room is not possible, consider finding another way of doing the climate modeling game that would not involve having students move around very much (perhaps have them do the personality quiz ahead of time, then form groups with the people sitting nearest to them.)

How this worked in my class:

UNIT 6: Adapting to a Changing World

Assessments

I used three assessment questions, listed under 'Embedded Assessment' questions on the Assessment page for the Climate of Change module. These questions seemed particularly effective at helping me determine how well students had processed the new materials and ideas from this module.

Outcomes

My hope in implementing the Climate of Change module is that students would become engaged in the topic, become active learners in the classroom, and more easily understand the complex interactions that occur as a part of climate variability and climate change. Students commented favorably at the end of the semester about the opportunity to move around the class and discuss ideas in a large lecture hall. While I did not have a control group to compare this class with, responses on exam questions from students who were present for the activities in the module suggest that it accomplished what I had hoped for.


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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 »