InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Changing Biosphere > Assessment
 Earth-focused Modules and Courses for the Undergraduate Classroom
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These materials are part of a 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 materials are free 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. 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 evaluate recent direct and indirect human influences on the biosphere in the context of the geologic record.

Overall Module Assessments

Summative Assessment

The following summative assessment can be used either as a homework assignment or within an exam.

Answer the following:

  1. What are the causes of past mass extinctions?
  2. What data are used to determine the causes and rates of past mass extinctions?
  3. In what ways are humans contributing to biodiversity loss and why should society be concerned?
  4. Explain why the current extinction could be considered a mass extinction.
  5. How do the causes of the current extinction differ from past mass extinctions?
  6. Choose one cause and describe the ways that it involves interactions among Earth's spheres using systems thinking terms.

A rubric for grading the summative assessment can be found here: Summative Assessment Rubric (Word) (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 14kB Jun20 16) Summative Assessment Rubric (PDF) (Acrobat (PDF) 212kB Jun20 16)

Unit Assessments

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

Unit 1 Assessments:

Assessment on Student Reading:

Unit 1 - Reading Quiz


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  • If you want to give this quiz to persuade the students to do the reading carefully before this class, administer it online through your course management system or have them do it as homework.

Consider using the discussion questions as short-essay exam or homework questions:

Learning Outcome #1:

  • What kind of pattern do well-known life history/Earth history events form on a timeline starting at 4.5 billion years ago and extending to the present?

Learning Outcome #2:

  • Describe two reasons for this kind of pattern in the timeline of Earth history. Use after the question about patterns in the timeline above.

  • What kinds of events did we plot on the timeline? Why do we consider these events important?

Learning Outcome #3:

Learning Outcome #4:

  • The apparent increase in biodiversity after 100 million years ago is described as "Pull of the Recent." What are two reasons for it? Or one for lower-level students
  • Why do we not see the current mass extinction at 0 years BP (the present) in the graph of marine biodiversity over the last 542 million years?
Instructors should consider modifying questions and setting standards for answers to best reflect the levels and emphases of their courses. Here is the
Unit 1 - Essay-Question Answer Guide


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and
Unit 1 - Essay-Question Answer Guide (pdf)


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(for instructors only).

Unit 2 Assessments:

Assessment on Student Reading:

  • Quiz A - Deccan Traps Article Quiz


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    Quiz A - pdf


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  • Quiz B - Siberian Traps Article


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    Quiz B - pdf


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  • Quiz C - Chicxulub Crater Article Quiz


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    Quiz C - pdf


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  • Quiz D - Possible End-Permian Impacts Article Quiz


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    Quiz D - pdf


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  • If you want to give these quizzes to the different groups to persuade the students to do the reading carefully before class, administer them online through your course management system or have them do the appropriate as homework.

Class Discussion Keys


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Class Discussion Keys (pdf)


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to use for assessing the discussion (for instructors only)

Consider using the discussion questions as short-essay exam or homework questions:

Learning Outcome #1:

  • Explain, using cause-and-effect language, how either a flood basalt eruption or the impacts of a large (6+ km-long) meteors could cause a mass extinction, specifically either the end-Permian or the end-Cretaceous mass extinction.

Learning Outcome #2:

  • Describe evidence that indicates whether flood-basalt eruptions and impacts occurred at the end of either the Permian or the Cretaceous and where they happened.

Learning Outcome #3:

  • How does the end-Permian mass extinction differ from the end-Cretaceous mass extinction in terms of causes, effects of those causes, and evidence for those causes?
  • How does the end-Permian mass extinction resemble the end-Cretaceous mass extinction in terms of causes, effects of those causes, and evidence for those causes?

Instructors should consider modifying questions and setting standards for answers to best reflect the levels and emphases of their courses. Here is the

Exam-question answer guide (editable)


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/
Exam-question answer guide (pdf)


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.

Unit 3 Assessments:

Unit 4 Assessments:

Possible Exam Questions:

Learning Outcome #1. Define adaptive radiation and relate this to how Equidae diversity has changed over time.

Learning Outcomes #2 and 3. Construct an explanation for how changes in climate and biome type led to adaptation and diversification in Equidae.

Assessments from student handouts:

Learning Outcome #2. The student handout has questions (#3, 11, 13, and 14) that ask students to describe changes in Equidae diversity over time due to evolution of new species and the ultimate loss of all but one genera due to extinction. If students can answer these questions, they have adequately met the second learning outcome.

Learning Outcome #3. The student handout has questions (# 5, 6, 9,10) that ask students to evaluate evidence based on background information, graphs, and scientific illustrations to form ideas about why changing climatic conditions and an increase in grassland environments led to changes in horse anatomy and diversity. If students can answer these questions, they have adequately met the third learning outcome.

Learning Outcome #4. The student handout has questions (#11 and 12) that ask students to compare and contrast earlier diagrams that portrayed Equidae evolution as a straight line with today's multi-branched family tree and a graph of body mass over time to recognize that scientific ideas are subject to change based on new evidence. If students can answer these questions, they have adequately met the fourth learning outcome.

Student Self-Assessment:

Students can use the Study Guide for self-assessment.

Unit 5 Assessments:

Assessment on Student Reading:

Use Unit 5 - Reading Quiz (Word) (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 15kB Aug20 15). If you want to give this quiz to persuade the students to do the reading carefully before this class, administer it online through your course management system or have them do it as homework. It could also be given as a student self-assessment. Specific questions from the quiz related to the learning outcomes are:

Learning Outcome #1: Students will be able to explain the direct and indirect impacts of humans on biological diversity.

1) Approximately how many species have been driven to extinction in the last 500 years?

6) What is the greatest human-driven threat to biodiversity right now?

Learning Outcome #2: Students will compare and contrast the causes and rates of the sixth xtinction with previous mass extinctions from the fossil record.

1) Approximately how many species have been driven to extinction in the last 500 years?

3) What percentage of Earth's species died out during each of the five most severe mass extinctions in the fossil record?

4) According to the study cited in the article you just read, how much greater is the current extinction rate than the average background extinction rate of the last 542 million years?

5) Unlike the five big mass extinctions in the geological record, the current wave of extinctions is caused by _________________?

Letter to Potential Donors Assessment:

Learning Outcomes #1, 2, 3. Letters should be graded using the Homework Rubric (Word) (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 16kB Jan16 17) Homework Rubric (PDF) (Acrobat (PDF) 59kB Jan16 17) that was given to students. Instructors can modify this rubric to assign point values in a manner that is consistent with their course grading scheme.

Possible exam questions:

Learning Outcome #3. List 5 different criteria used for setting conservation priorities. Circle the one you think is most important and explain why you think it is the most important criteria.

Learning Outcome #4. Explain the difference between in situ and ex situ conservation and give an example of each.

The reading quiz questions above could also be used as exam questions.

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These materials are part of a 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 »