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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

This module has both formative assessments to measure student understanding during the module and summative assessments at the end of each unit to measure success in achieving the module learning outcomes. Formative assessments are built into the student materials (within individual activities) as discussion prompts. Additionally, three summative assessments can be used to measure student progress at key points in the module. The Initial Ideas portion of each unit can be used as a pre-assessment, and student answers can then be compared during a post-assessment. Students can make this comparison on their own, allowing the instructor to emphasize metacognition — or students' awareness of their own learning process.

Overall Module Assessments

Each of the learning goals of the modules have objectives on the unit pages. Each of those objectives has a specific assessment, listed within the "Assessment" section at the bottom of each unit webpage. In addition, all or some of the Initial ideas questions can be used as summative assessment questions.

Students can also be asked a metacognitive prompt to self-monitor their learning. The prompt is as follows: "What new concepts or ideas did you learn in this module? How do your initial ideas compare to your final ideas? How did you learn these concepts? Use your written answers from the initial ideas, from activity questions, and from summarizing questions as your evidence. Focus on specific activities or discussions that caused your ideas to change."

Summative Assessments

  • Unit 1 Hydrologic cycle understanding
  • Unit 5 Question about the linked nature of the hydrologic cycle, the rock cycle, and plate tectonics and associated energy diagrams

Unit Assessments

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

Unit 1 Assessments:

Formative assessment occurs via the following:

  • Facilitator listening in on group discussions of specific prompts to make sure that students are on the right track/holding productive conversations.
  • Facilitator listening in on class discussions of specific prompts.
  • Quality of individual student answers to specific prompts in the activity sheet.

Note: Assessable objectives are in normal font, and the writing/discussion prompts that assess those objectives are in italics:

Objective 1-1. Construct a model of the hydrologic cycle as an analogy for how water moves through and between Earth systems.

Part 2, Question 2-4. As water moved through the bottle-model hydrologic system it was transferred between several storehouses. Identify the analog in the hydrologic system for each item in the bottle-model (sand, water, empty space, ice cubes) and the Earth system where the interaction occurs (lithosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere).

Objective 1-2. Demonstrate the processes of evaporation, condensation, and precipitation.

Part 2, Question 2-3. Explain in detail the processes and phase changes that occurred as water moved through the bottle-model hydrologic system. Start from when you turned on the lamp to where you observed evidence for the initial movement of water.

Objective1-3. Collect and analyze data to identify soil and surface conditions that result in a higher volume of infiltration or runoff.

Part 2, Question 2-7. Underline the combination of surface soil and slope conditions that resulted in the most infiltration of rainwater: (1) Steep slope and type 1 soil, (2) Steep slope and type 2 soil, (3) Gentle slope and type 1 soil or (4) Gentle slope and type 2 soil. Explain where in the data you collected there is evidence to support your answers.

Part 2, Question 2-8. Underline the condition that resulted in the greatest amount of surface runoff: (1) Gradual slope, (2) Infiltration rate exceeds the rate of rainfall, (3) Surface soil has reached saturation (all the pore spaces between the grains are filled with water), or (4) permeability of the surface soil. Explain where in the data you collected there is evidence to support your answers.

Objective1-4. Infer how human activity can affect the rate of infiltration and runoff in the local landscape and impact the quality of water readily available for human consumption.

PART 1, Question 1-4. There has been a growing public awareness about the value and importance of water and water resources. How do you think the quality and quantity of the freshwater stored in a local reservoir might be affected by human activity?
Part 2, Question 2-9. Apply your understanding of infiltration and runoff to explain how human activity might affect the rate of water infiltration and runoff where the university you attend is located.

Unit 1 Summative assessment occurs via the following:

Written answers to the summarizing questions:

Q1. Imagine that you are a water molecule on a journey through the hydrologic cycle. Identify the process that is occurring at each numbered location on the diagram.

Q2. Begin with the source of energy that ultimately drives the hydrologic cycle. At each numbered location, explain the process and or phase change that occurs as matter (water) moves through one complete cycle in the hydrologic system.

Rubric and key for summarizing questions Q1 and Q2 can be downloaded here:

Unit 1 Summative Assessment Rubric


This file is only accessible to verified educators. If you are a teacher or faculty member and would like access to this file please enter your email address to be verified as belonging to an educator.

Unit 2 Assessments:

Formative assessment occurs via the following:

  • Facilitator listening in on group discussions of specific prompts to make sure that students are on the right track/holding productive conversations.
  • Facilitator listening in on class discussions of specific prompts.
  • Quality of individual student answers to specific prompts in the activity sheet.

Note: Assessable objectives are in normal font, and the writing/discussion prompts that assess those objectives are in italics:

Formative Assessment:
Objective 2-1. Create a scale model of a fluvial system and describe the processes of erosion and deposition of sediments.

Part 2 question 2-3. In an actual river system, stream velocity naturally sorts the grain sizes over the course of the river system. The faster the flow of the river, the larger the grain size that will be transported downstream. Considering this information, where would you expect to find the largest rock and sediment size in a river system? Use the stream model to support your reasoning.

Objective 2-2. Observe how stream velocity affects weathering, erosion, and size of sediment particles transported and deposited in a river system.

Part 2, Question: 2-5. The diagram below illustrates the interaction between water as it flows downhill and rocks or sediment it pushes in the river channel or along the river bank. During this process kinetic energy in the water is transferred (causing a decrease in kinetic energy) to the solid material (rock or sediment). What type of energy increase causes the sediment to move downstream?

Objective 2-3. Identify physical characteristics associated with the collection, transport and deposition zones in a river system.

Part 2 question 2-1. What do you notice about the shape, width and depth of the stream channel as you move away from the headwaters? (Zone 1)

Objective 2-4: Discuss the impact of human activity on the quality and sustainability of a river system.

Part 2- Initial ideas: Rivers are invaluable resources for plants and animals. Think about the significance of rivers and why it is important for scientists to study how a river system behaves. Brainstorm your ideas with your group and summarize your answers below. Be prepared to share your group's response with the class.

Unit 2 Summative Assessment:

Summarizing question Q1:

Explain how streams and rivers are an important factor in the formation of sedimentary rocks.

Summarizing question Q2:

Explain how stream velocity (assume the steeper the slope, the faster the velocity) relates to the transportation and deposition of sediment. Use specific examples from Part 2 and 3 to support your answer.

Unit 3 Assessments:

Objective 3-1: Students will describe one or more river systems using evidence collected via Google Earth.

Part 2 of the student activities:

  • At this location, is the river primarily eroding sediment, depositing sediment, or doing neither? What evidence supports your claim?
  • Describe the stream channel itself including its width, apparent water depth, shape of the path it is taking, and the apparent size of the material that makes up the stream bed.
Objective 3-2: Students will be able to describe changes in stream gradient and grain size along a given river system and relate their observations to bedrock composition.

Student responses to questions in Part 2 of the student activities.

  • Describe what happened to the apparent grain size as you moved downstream. Why might this change take place?
  • How does the type of rock influence the gradient of a stream?

Objective 3-3: Students will predict changes in stream geometry by predicting which portions of a stream will be susceptible to erosion or deposition.

Student responses in Part 2 of the student activities and from the homework.

  • Homework: What would the river's profile look like [in 1 million years]? Draw that profile on the graph below and explain why this profile would have that shape.
  • Student Worksheet: Predict what the river will look like in five years and explain why this will happen.

Objective 3-4: Students will identify ways in which humans are impacted by stream erosion and communicate ways in which humans can mitigate against erosion.

Student responses in Part 2 of the student activities and from the homework.

  • Student Worksheet: Do you see any evidence for why the buildings in this area are not eroding away?
  • Homework: Name one action that either city could take to protect its bank against erosion.

Unit 4 Assessments:

Objective 4-1. Interpret hydrographic and meteorological data to draw conclusions regarding the interaction between precipitation, discharge, and flooding.

Student worksheets: For each graph, infer the relative amount of rainfall for each year in Cedar Falls and describe your observations that support your conclusion.

Objective 4-2. Students will calculate recurrence intervals of major flooding for one river system using stream gauge data.

Use the graph on the previous page to estimate the recurrence interval for that flood and determine the probability that a flood of that size could happen again. Explain below how you arrived at those answers.

Objective 4-3. Students will define a "100-year flood" and explain why floods of that magnitude can occur in successive years.

Two students are discussing what that term means and whether it is safe to live near the river . . . Who is right? Explain why. (Question 4-8)

Objective 4-4. Students will describe hazards associated with a river system and evaluate their impact on ecosystems and human society.

Research flood hazards for a city on a nearby river or on a river of choice. Students will create a brochure outlining the following points: Location and size of the river, largest recorded flood, cost of that flood, any measures that the city has taken to protect itself from flooding (levees, flood walls, etc.).

Unit 5 Assessments:

Assessable objectives are in normal font, and the writing/discussion prompts that assess those objectives are in italics.

  • Students will be able to describe and illustrate energy transfer processes within and between Earth systems.
    • Formative Assessment:
      • Activity 5, Part 2, Question 1. Review the energy transfer that occurs as water evaporates from a large body of water, and provide an explanation for that transfer.
      • Activity 5, Part 2, Question 2. Now describe the energy transfer that occurs as that evaporated water condenses and falls out as precipitation. What would happen to the water in this cycle if the Sun did not continuously supply energy input?
      • Activity 5, Part 2, Question 3. Map the energy transfer that occurs during that erosion process.
    • Summative Assessment:
      • Activity 5, Summarizing Questions 1 and 2, 6
        • Where does the energy come from to transport sediment in a stream? Go as far back to the ultimate energy source as possible and explain your reasoning.
        • What changes might happen to sediment if it piles up at the end of the river and gets deeply buried (many kilometers) for millions of years? What is the source of energy that is ultimately responsible for those changes? Explain your reasoning.
        • Describe a hypothetical rock material transfer pathway as follows: You live on the banks of a medium-sized river. The river floods during high rains. When the water finally recedes, there is a new layer of fine-grained sediment everywhere in your neighborhood. Using the rock cycle diagram and a whiteboard, your group should describe a hypothetical rock cycle pathway for that sediment that traverses at least one time through the rock cycle. Make sure you describe interaction with the hydrologic cycle and plate tectonics. Write down your resulting pathway below and make sure you include any required energy transfers.
  • Students will be able to explain a viable Earth material transfer scenario using a rock cycle diagram that shows linkages between above-surface processes (erosion and sedimentation) and below-surface processes (lithification, metamorphism, melting).
    • Formative Assessment:
      • Activity 5, Part 2, Question 8. Brainstorm below what other things happen to a rock as it traverses the rock cycle.
    • Summative Assessment:
      • Activity 5, Summarizing Questions. Describe a hypothetical rock material transfer pathway.
  • Students will be able to describe/illustrate the energy sources required to create sediment from a metamorphic rock.
    • Summative Assessment: Energy diagram from Part 2, Question 5 in worksheet: Map this energy transfer as a sedimentary rock receives thermal energy to be turned into a metamorphic rock. Provide an explanation.
  • Students will be able to describe/illustrate the energy sources required to create a metamorphic rock from a sedimentary rock.
    • Summative Assessment: Energy diagram from Part 2, Question 3 in worksheet: Map the energy transfer that occurs during that erosion process. The receiver object and its type of energy have been done for you. Provide an explanation of that energy transfer.
  • Students will be able to explain how mountainous areas with high rainfall might experience greater uplift than areas with lower rainfall (this requires previous experience with isostasy).
    • Summative Assessment:
      • Activity 5, Summarizing Question 5. The northern Andes mountain range and the mountains of southeastern Alaska are both large mountain ranges that are actively being uplifted. Based on your homework reading, and given the difference in climate between the two (the northern Andes are desert, southeastern Alaska is very rainy), which mountain range would you expect to be rising faster? Explain your reasoning.
      • Activity 5, Homework Prompt: How do feedbacks between tectonics, erosion, and climate processes interplay to influence mountain building?

Metacognition

Students will have a metacognitive prompt at the end of the module. The prompt is in the form: "What new material did you learn in this module? What evidence do you have for this learning? Where and how specifically did that learning occur? Use your answers to initial ideas, activity questions, and summarizing questions as your evidence."

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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 »