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Writing about the climate (Calibrated Peer Review):

William A. Prothero, Univ of California, Santa Barbara, prothero@geol.ucsb.edu
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This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project


This is an example of a writing assignment focused on the use of data to understand the earth's paleoclimate. It includes a scoresheet that was created for a calibrated peer review assignment. However, it would be equally suitable as a teacher graded writing assignment. The assignment directs students to determine the relevant climate data and use it to construct a science argument. Learners access data, capture images of the data plots, and incorporate them into their writing. The support materials provide specific instructions on how to construct a scientific argument using these data.

Learning Goals

1) develop knowledge of the earth's climate history and global warming

2) learn to use data to make a scientific argument

Context for Use

This is a writing assignment that the student can do in a computer lab or her/his own computer. It is targeted at an introductory geology or oceanography course.

Equipment required for EarthEd Online:

*Macintosh OSX and Classic or PC with Win/98/2000/XP.

This assignment was created using the EarthEd Online system, but is also suitable for entry into the UCLA Calibrated Peer Review system. UCLA calibrated peer review home page (more info)

Information about other data browsers, EarthEd Online, and UCSB Oceanography can be found at: EarthEdNet home page

Teaching Materials

Assignment Description-student handout (Microsoft Word 30kB May24 05)

Anatomy of a science paper-student handout (Microsoft Word 178kB May12 05)

How to avoid the appearance of cheating-student handout (Microsoft Word 27kB May12 05)

The following link will download a zip file containing the 3 calibration papers used in this writing assignment. The instructor will have to create the scores for each paper, unless the EarthEd Online writing system is used. Three calibration papers in web page format - zip file ( 1.2MB May24 05)

I use EarthEdOnline to deliver this assignment. The following document describes EarthEd Online and results with the CPR assignment delivered to a general education oceanography class during the winter quarter of 2005.

Using EarthEd Online to deliver a CPR assignment (Acrobat (PDF) 4.9MB Apr28 05)

Teaching Notes and Tips

The following activities are used to prepare students for this assignment:
  1. lecture on climate and greenhouse effect
  2. reading about the climate from the class text
  3. reading "Anatomy of a Science Paper" (see Teaching Materials)
  4. an online homework assignment covering climate and global warming
  5. a 2 hr lab session where students investigate data relevant to climate and discuss the components of the writing assignments
  6. in-class discussions of science writing and use of evidenced in argumentation


Climate Assignment Scoresheet (Acrobat (PDF) 77kB Jul19 05)

References and Resources

The links to the Climate writing assignment data can be found at: UCSB Oceanography Climate data links page


Environmental Science:Global Change and Climate:Climate Change:Paleoclimate records, Geoscience:Atmospheric Science:Climate Change:Paleoclimate records, Geoscience:Atmospheric Science:Climatology , Environmental Science:Global Change and Climate:Climate Change, Climate Change:Greenhouse effect, Geoscience:Atmospheric Science:Climate Change:Greenhouse effect

Resource Type

Assessments:Peer Assessment, Written Report

Grade Level

College Lower (13-14):Introductory Level


Teach the Earth:Incorporating Societal Issues:Climate Change, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Environmental Science, Teach the Earth:Teaching Environments:Intro Geoscience, Teach the Earth:Course Topics:Atmospheric Science

Data Derived

Data Derived

Earth System Topics

Atmosphere:Weather, Atmosphere, Climate


Climate, Atmosphere

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