Evaluating Learning

Presentation | Research | Grades | Course Evaluation and Assessment

Presentation

Energy Use and Global Warming

Global climate change is arguably one of the greatest threats to our natural environment and represents a tremendous challenge to politicians, citizens, environmentalists and educators to identify and implement equitable policies to reduce projected temperature increases. The combustion of fossil fuels for energy production results in the production of carbon dioxide (CO2), one of several greenhouse gasses whose concentrations are increasing in the Earth's atmosphere. The recent United Nation sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated an average global temperature increase ranging from 1.5-4.5 °C by 2100 as a result of the projected increase in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. Temperature increases of this magnitude are expected to result in consequences including changing weather patterns, migration of ecosystems, sea level rise and coastal flooding. An international effort is underway (Kyoto Protocol) to try to reduce the production of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, however the fate of this agreement is uncertain.

Each group (5-6 students/group) is assigned the task of examining specific consequences of possible climate change in Connecticut/New England. The presentations will focus on the following topics: Human health effects, sea level changes, weather/storms and living marine resources in Long Island Sound. Focus your presentation on one or more major consequences of each possible outcome. In addition to describing possible consequences, each group should also present some ideas/strategies on how we may adapt/respond to the anticipated consequences of climate change. Finally, each group should present 3 or 4 suggested ways/strategies on how CT residents can reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

We will conduct a symposium where each group will present their findings and recommendations. These oral presentations should be practiced and professional (dress appropriately). We recommend (not required) that the presentations use PowerPoint software for preparation and presentation of the results of your research. Each group presentation should last 15-20 minutes maximum. This time will include several minutes for questions from the audience. Everyone is expected to participate in the questioning of the presenters. Each group will submit copies (disk or photocopy) of their PowerPoint presentation or lecture notes to the instructors as part of the final grade (group grade).

Research

Geologic History of Connecticut

Rules

  1. Write well (good grammar and organization)
  2. Re-write (first drafts are not good enough)
  3. Think things through (don't be superficial)
  4. Presentation counts (images, maps, etc)
  5. Get it right (double check your interpretations and ask questions if necessary)
  6. Meet deadlines (turn it in on time)
  7. Don't plagiarize words or ideas (don't borrow text and reference often)

Format

I. Introduction
Should contain description of geologic history of Connecticut with referencing and brief discussion of terranes and associated rock types. Should also explain purpose of your investigation, i.e., to identify rocks of Connecticut shoreline in Branford and East Haven and to relate them to established terrains and the processes that created them.

II. Methods
Where did you go and what did you do?

III. Results and Discussion
You want to describe what you found (e.g. outcrops) at each stop. Describe and identify the rock and state what evidence (e.g., mineralogy and texture) you used to make that identification. Infer environment and processes of formation from the rock ID. Relate the rocks to tectonic terranes and explain why you think they belong to a specific terrane. If you think that there is more than one possible terrain, justify this. From the terrain, discuss what these rocks you found tell you about CT geologic history. Reference your readings from Press and Seiver, Bell, and the class lab handouts liberally.

IV. Figures
Adding a presentable map of your sample locations would be an excellent idea. A color copy of you geologic map would also be appropriate as would photos of the outcrops and rock samples. Figures should be neat and well-labeled. Each figure should have a figure number (e.g., Figure 3) and a caption summarizing the point being made with the figure.

V. Conclusion
Revisit your results and interpretations in the form of a coherent summary, i.e., explain the big picture.

VI. References
Follow a format from your readings.

Coastal Environments and Processes

Rules

  1. Write well (good grammar and organization)
  2. Re-write (first drafts are not good enough)
  3. Think things through (don't be superficial)
  4. Presentation counts (images, maps, etc)
  5. Get it right (double check your interpretations and ask questions if necessary)
  6. Meet deadlines (turn it in on time)
  7. Don't plagiarize words or ideas (don't borrow text and reference often)

Format

I. Introduction
Should provide enough background for the reader to understand what you are doing, why you are doing it, and the significance of your results. The following things should be addressed:

  • A brief characterization of the Connecticut coast
  • A brief discussion of hurricanes and hurricane history on the Connecticut coast
  • The purpose of your study
  • A description of the study site(s)
  • Include a location map
  • Be sure to reference material you take from the readings, e.g., (Patton and Kent, 1992)
  • Reference information from instructors as personal communications, e.g., (James Tait, personal communication)

II. Methods
Should address:

  • How you obtained your survey results
  • How you determined the flood zone elevation
  • How you assessed the value of the properties at risk

III. Results
Should include:

  • Street profiles (distance vs. elevation) for all three streets
  • A flood zone map
  • A description of each street in terms of its topography, location of the flood zone boundary, and the nature and numbers of structures.
  • A description of natural habitats in the study area

IV. Discussion
Should synthesize your results, describing the potential impacts of a repeat 1938-type event on the study site (nature and extent of damage). Also, discuss potential impacts on the surrounding natural environment (marsh and beach). The introduction should contain information about marshes and beaches that provide the foundations of such a discussion as part of your description of the Connecticut coast. Also address potential impacts on other areas of West Haven, for example, the flat-lying area around Beach Avenue (Captain's Galley) or the Sewage Treatment Plant. You may want to look a topographic map of West Haven and see where the topography is low-lying and where it is not. Try very hard to separate hypothesis or speculation from arguable fact. There is a place for both but they should not be mixed up.

V. Conclusions
Sum up your observations of potential impacts of a repeat of the 1938 event on the city of West Haven. Also, try to extend your comments to the Connecticut coast in general. You may wish to recommend further studies (but should be somewhat specific).

V. References
Follow a format from your readings.

Quality of New Haven Harbor

Rules

  1. Write well (good grammar and organization)
  2. Re-write (first drafts are not good enough)
  3. Think things through (don't be superficial)
  4. Presentation counts (images, maps, etc)
  5. Get it right (double check your interpretations and ask questions if necessary)
  6. Meet deadlines (turn it in on time)
  7. Don't plagiarize words or ideas (don't borrow text and reference often)
I. Introduction
Should provide sufficient information for the reader to understand what you are doing, why you are doing it, and the significant of your results. The following points should be addressed:
  • A discussion of New Haven harbor
    -What is the significance (economic, social, etc) of the harbor to the state of Connecticut?
    -Discuss the historical economic and industrial development of the harbor
    -Summarize the current uses (often competing uses) and environmental importance of the harbor
  • A discussion of how economic activity within a harbor can result in contaminated sediment
  • A discussion of why we should be concerned about contaminants in harbor sediments
  • The purpose of your study
  • Include a location map
  • Cite material that you take from your readings

II. Methods
Should address:

  • How the sampling sites in the harbor were selected
  • How the sediment samples were collected
    -Brief description of each sites location
  • How the sediment samples were prepared for metal analysis
  • The acid digestion procedure
  • The use of reference material (NIST 2702)
  • How visual characterization of the sediment samples was performed
    -The criteria used to categorize the samples
  • A brief description of the atomic absorption spectrophotometer for copper analysis
  • A brief description of the calculations

III. Results
Should include:

  • The locations (latitude and longitude) of the sampling sites
  • A thorough description of the characteristics of the sediment samples at each location (grain size, loss on ignition, etc.)
  • An assessment of the accuracy and precision of our techniques (recovery of the copper content of the standard reference materials)
  • The calculated copper concentrations for each site

IV. Discussion and Conclusions
One of your readings (Branford Harbor) conducted a similar study. You should compare and contrast the results from the New Haven harbor study with those found in Branford harbor. Is the New Haven harbor sediment contaminated with respect to copper? Provide evidence to support your answer. Each of you developed a series of hypotheses concerning the extent of contamination of sediment at 5 locations in the harbor. Find locations in the current study similar to those you chose and re-examine those initial hypotheses. How did your expectations compare with the data? What are some of the specific sources of copper in the harbor? Do the physical properties of the sediment at the various locations in the harbor correlate with the copper contents of the sediment at these same locations? Does the copper content of the sediment vary with location? If there is variation, are patterns evident? You may wish to find copper contents of other Long Island Sound harbors or elsewhere for use in comparing to New Haven harbor sediment. Why should we be concerned about contaminated sediments in New Haven harbor? What environmental habitats and living marine resources are threatened? Is there anything that can be done to remediate contaminated sediment?

V. References
Follow a format of your choice from your readings.

Grades

Three quizzes (announced/unannounced) will be given during class and will address material presented during lectures, readings, and field/lab activities and will count towards 25% of the course final grade. Students will also be expected to submit written reports concerning the field and laboratory activities (50% of final grade). Specific format of these reports will be addressed during class. All reports must be typed! Participation will account for 25% of the final grade (includes attendance, participation in class discussion, quality of effort in field and laboratory work, being on time to class and excursions, etc.).

Course Evaluation and Assessment

One indicator of the success of the HON 270 course is that it has filled each time the course has been offered. Students generally like the idea of "learning science by doing science" although there are always  a few students who are resistant to an approach that places less emphasis on in-class lecture style learning and more of an emphasis on inquiry-based field and laboratory work. Many Honors students have been successful in high school by mastering the art of memorizing and regurgitating information on quizzes and exams. We take a very different approach in this course. We only give two or three quizzes during the semester and no mid-term or final exams. The quizzes are given with
the goal of making sure that the students are keeping up with and understanding the assigned lecture and reading material.

We place a strong emphasis on synthesizing information and communicating the results of their studies via written and oral reports. Although students work in groups to conduct field and laboratory studies, the students prepare and submit individual reports. We place a strong emphasis on getting the story correct. Some students are uncomfortable with writing a formal science research paper. We provide opportunities, and in fact openly encourage students, to consult with the instructors prior to submitting papers to make sure the story is correct and the paper format is aligned with the assigned guidelines. Too few students take advantage of these opportunities. We are currently revising some of the curriculum to allow time for individual student meetings prior to paper due dates.

The only formal assessment of the course to date is via the standard university course evaluation forms. The student responses on these forms have generally been positive and the majority of the students are favorable towards this approach to learning science. There are a few students each semester who express dissatisfaction with the course, primarily due to the emphasis on group work and the emphasis on positive student participation in the class and during the field trips. We are attempting to extend the boundaries of their learning. In our class, the students need to "work and play well together" and seek to answer questions where there is no simple answer. Overall, the students have generally been enthusiastic concerning collecting the field data and equally careful in conducting the laboratory assignments.