InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Natural Hazards and Risks: Hurricanes > Assessment
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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. Additionally, the three embedded assessment questions below are particularly helpful at measuring student progress toward key points of understanding in the overall module. These questions focus specifically on using data to determine where, when, and how hurricanes happen, how land and human systems are affected, how to deal with uncertainty in forecasts, and both societal and personal responses to risks. Finally, 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 integrate what they have learned about hurricane science and forecast uncertainty with societal impacts of hurricanes.

Summative Assessment

What data would you like to have as a government official making the decision about whether to order an evacuation prior to a hurricane landfall? Explain the challenges of making such a decision to evacuate prior to hurricane landfall 1) from the perspective of a local government official, and 2) from your own personal perspective.


A full-credit answer includes:

  • A) Thoughtful synthesis of more than one piece of information, including using scientific data (forecast cones, flood maps, damage from past hurricanes of similar size, etc.) and at least one other consideration (e.g., transportation, evacuation centers, economy/business, safety, timing, emergency responders).
  • B) Thoughtful connection to one's own life.
  • C) Reflection on the difficulty of making decisions with uncertain predictions. If the answer does not include discussion of the uncertainty of hurricane data/forecasts, it does not receive full credit.

5 – Does all of the above very well.

4 - Does all of the above reasonably well, with a few minor errors or omissions.

3 - Does two of the three above, but misses one point altogether or makes many significant errors.

2 - Partial answer – missing two criteria altogether.

1 – Barely includes anything relevant to the above rubric.

0 – Restates question or non-answer.


Pre-Instruction Assessment (repeated as Post-Instruction Assessment)

Administer on the first day of class or outside of class in the first week. Then, use the same assessment after the module is complete.

1. Who of the following is at the most risk (to life and property) from hurricanes?

  • A. Person A in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who rents an apartment
  • B. Person B in Far Rockaway, New York, who owns a luxury hotel
  • C. Person C in St. Paul, Minnesota, who owns a construction business
How confident are you about your answer? (Circle one) Very / Mostly / Somewhat / Not Very / Not at all

2. Select all that apply. What conditions are necessary for hurricane formation?
  • A. atmospheric instability
  • B. sea surface temperature > 27 C
  • C. sea surface temperature < 27 C
  • D. little or no vertical wind shear
  • E. significant vertical wind shear
  • F. within 10 degrees of the equator
  • G. at least 5 to 10 degrees north or south of the equator
How confident are you about your answer? (Circle one) Very / Mostly / Somewhat / Not Very / Not at all


3. Which of these hazards are often associated with hurricanes? Select as many as apply.

  • A. high winds
  • B. heavy rain
  • C. storm surge
  • D. coastal land loss
  • E. thunderstorms
  • F. snow storms
How confident are you about your answer? (Circle one) Very / Mostly / Somewhat / Not Very / Not at all

Embedded Assessments

Unit 1

1. Define and calculate risk (i.e., probability of hazard times cost)

In-class discussion or homework questions:

  • Based on the image provided, how could the person minimize her risk? (Activity 1.1)

  • How would you have calculated risk before this activity? Compare with how you calculate risk after this activity. (Activity 1.3)

Exam/quiz questions:

  • For each of the following locations/hurricanes (include some pairings of place, hurricane, population, etc.), calculate the risk to life and property. If you had these data in advance of moving to a new city, which city would you pick to minimize your risk from hurricane hazards? (Activity 1.3)
  • Pre-instruction question 1 above. (Activity 1.3)

Unit 2

2. Describe the causes of the natural hazard (e.g., hurricanes form as an atmospheric instability over warm water, in a region with little or no vertical wind shear, in sufficient latitude for the Coriolis force).

Exam/quiz question:

  • Pre-instruction question 2 above.

Units 2–5

3. List several risks of the natural hazard (e.g., high winds, storm surge, flooding after initial surge, coastal land loss, destruction of infrastructure including roads, power plants, etc. and subsequent risks from those).

Exam/quiz question:

  • Pre-instruction question 3 above.

Unit 4

4. Explain how precipitation impacts the surface of Earth and can lead to movement and change in the hillslope and river systems.

In-class prompt or homework:

  • Sketch and annotate a concept map showing the relationship between a high magnitude hurricane and the sensitivity of a landscape to further change. (Activity 4.1)

Units 3-5

5. Analyze maps and images to determine hurricane track, landscape changes, and hazardous areas (e.g., repeat images for changes in the topography and coastlines, topographic maps for areas of flood hazard).

In-class assignments or homework questions:

  • Map the trajectory of Hurricane Irene. (Activity 3.1)
  • Sketch (or label) the areas of major landscape change due to Hurricane Irene (2011). (Activity 4.2)
  • Describe the land uses visible in the two images, one modern and one historic. How has land use changed in the intervening time? (Activity 5.2)

Unit 3

6. Describe the size of a particular event compared to averages and medians (e.g., ACE index of a single hurricane, or an entire season).

Homework questions:

  • What is the mean ACE for all seasons since 1995? How does last year compare to the mean? (Activity 3.3)
  • Use the ACE index to rank the three largest hurricanes last year. (Activity 3.3)

Units 3 and 6

7. Make relevant predictions (e.g., effects of the hurricane, past similar events).

In-class prompts or homework assignments:

  • Based on historic data in the hurricane tracker,

  1. Have there been more or fewer hurricanes here in your own lifetime than you would have expected? Were you initially surprised at the path Sandy took?

  2. Do you think you would have been surprised by Sandy's path if you had seen the paths of other October hurricanes first (in other words, if you had more of the data geoscientists have)? (Activity 3.2)

  • Hurricane Irene (2011), while devastating in parts of the country, did not affect the Connecticut coast severely. How do you think this influenced Connecticut coastal residents' response to the warnings about Sandy (2012) only a year later? What information do you think would help people make the most informed decisions about evacuation? Review the video (MP4 Video 22.2MB Nov2 12) (Activity 6)

Units 2 and 6

8. Calculate when/where to evacuate based on competing and ambiguous data (including calculating timing based on population, roads available, cars/hour).

In-class/homework questions

  • It is Friday morning and your container ship in Miami is planning to sail for Galveston, TX. It is normally a three-day trip, but a hurricane is predicted to be near Miami by Sunday night. What do you do? Explain the relative risks of staying in port or heading to Galveston on schedule. (Activity 2)
  • Write a position statement to your town council, explaining the possible impacts of a hurricane. (Activity 6)

Unit 6

9. Explain the challenges of making decisions based on probabilities.

Exam essay question

  • Explain the challenges of making the decision to evacuate prior to hurricane landfall.
Essay or exam question
  • What data you would like to have as a government official making the decision about whether to order an evacuation prior to a hurricane landfall? Explain the challenges of making such a decision to evacuate prior to hurricane landfall 1) from the perspective of a local government official, and 2) from your own personal perspective.

Additional assessment files with grading rubrics:

Assessment 1: Homework question (Microsoft Word 811kB Aug26 14).

Assessment 2: Exam question (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 52kB Mar25 13).

Assessment 3: In-class essay (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 39kB Mar25 13).

Assessment 1-3 Grading rubrics. (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 908kB Aug26 14)

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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 »