Assessment of Course Goals
The summative assessment for this course requires students to construct, utilize, and critique a numerical model of a climate-related earth system of their choosing. As the summative assessment, it necessarily addresses the four course goals:
- Students will be able to create a model of a dynamic Earth system.
- Students will be able to use a model to make a predictive hypothesis and then test that hypothesis through experimentation.
- Students will be able to critique and make judgments about the uses and limitations of models.
- Students will be able to explain the main components, feedbacks, and forcings of the global climate system, including the role of humans as one of the principal forcings.
The assessment asks students to choose a climate-related system, and to use data and/or primary literature to inform the construction of a system model using the software package STELLA. Students are asked to make and test a predictive hypothesis, and to evaluate both their results and the model itself in a paper. In the paper, students are also asked to reflect on their learning throughout the course and specifically during the final project. Finally, students are asked to write a short op-ed piece where they explain their results, including any policy implications, to a general audience. See the Summative Assessment page for a complete assignment description, rubric for grading the op-ed, and rubric for grading the final paper.
Each unit of the course contains its own assessment, all of which we recommend be evaluated with a common rubric. These are primarily formative assessments, and the rubric is meant to assess overall learning and quality; it is not a point-by-point outline of how to score each question. We have, however, provided an instructor key for each unit with correct answers for all questions, or at least descriptions of different ways students might approach the questions. Since these unit-level assessments all follow roughly the same format, we will provide a brief, general description of a typical unit-level assessment here along with the Assessment rubric (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 121kB Jan8 15). Please see the individual unit pages for more detail.
In each unit, which we envision as taking three to four hours of class time per week, students are asked to construct a model of a particular system using information gathered from assigned readings. At the beginning of each week/class, students complete a short reading quiz to ensure that they have competed the readings and retained the main ideas needed for model construction. Students then begin creating their models. In the beginning of the course, students are given more explicit instruction in both the equations to use and model construction — this decreases as the course progresses and students become more adept. Once the model is constructed, students are led through a series of experiments, most of which involve modifying the model in some way, to test different hypotheses or answer different questions. All along the way, students answer questions about the model construction, experimental results, interpretation, and reflection on their own learning. The answers to these questions are turned in to the instructor as the assessment for that unit, along with copies of all model files. This allows the instructor to evaluate students' skills at model construction as well as their understanding of the subject matter.