Experiencing the Scientific Method in a General Education Weather Course

Tuesday 4:30pm-5:30pm Red Gym
Poster Session


Thomas Kovacs, Eastern Michigan University
The main learning objective of the Eastern Michigan University (EMU) course, Introduction to Weather and Forecasting, is to obtain a working knowledge of the development of a weather forecast. Developing a weather forecast (or prediction) is an excellent example of a result of using the scientific method. The vast majority of students that take introductory science courses in college are not science majors and take the course to satisfy some general education requirement. A critical goal of these courses should be to teach the scientific method in an experiential way. The purpose of this presentation is to describe a course that is completely structured to do just that.

The course units are organized similar to the linear progression in which the scientific method is often presented. The first unit is to learn the observations necessary to make a good weather prediction. The second unit shows how those observations can be presented (e.g. weather maps, soundings, etc.). The third and fourth units present the important hypotheses and theories used to analyze these observations (e.g. Archimedes Principle, Newton's Laws of Motion, etc.). The fifth and sixth units present how this information is used to make predictions of the general weather conditions (i.e. high and low temperature and precipitation). The seventh and final unit presents the special prediction techniques of severe weather forecasting. Student evaluations have been largely positive with 83% of students rating the course as above average. Furthermore, attendance, in this course, which is not taken or graded, is typically over 95% on average. Attainment of the main learning objective has not been formally assessed.