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Viewpoint on Causes of Global Warming - An Assignment Using Anonymous Electronic Peer Review With a Dropbox

Activity and Starting Point page by L.A. Guertin ( This site may be offline. ) , Penn State Delaware County, Earth Science.
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Studies exist that suggest human activities are not causing warming of the Earth. This electronic peer review assignment gives students the opportunity to write about their viewpoint on this highly-debated issue while providing anonymous commentary to a peer's report.

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Learning Goals

Students are given the opportunity to further their writing, critical thinking and reasoning skills. While enhancing their computer experience using MS Word and a dropbox, students conduct anonymous peer reviews to encourage open and fair criticism.

Context for Use

This exercise should be given as an assignment outside of class with technology facilitating the procedure. Students and the instructor only require access to a computer connected to the internet and a course management software program that has a "dropbox" or a folder that allows students to upload and download files. The assignment can be given over a two-week period - one week for the students to write their papers, the second week for the peer reviews to occur.

Teaching Materials

Provide students with the following assignment:
Global climate has long been a topic of debate. New reports are coming out that suggest human activities are NOT causing global warming. The publication 'Scientific American' in June 2003 reports: "Greenhouse skeptics, pro-industry groups and political conservatives have seized on the results, proclaiming that the science of climate change is inconclusive and that agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol, which set limits on the output of industrial heat-trapping gases, are unnecessary. But mainstream climatologists, as represented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), are perturbed that the report has received so much attention; they say the study's conclusions are scientifically dubious and colored by politics."

What is your viewpoint on humans impacting global warming? Do you think human activities are part of the cause, or is this more of a media hype? Take some time and review scientific and political reports. Utilize the information you come across to back up your viewpoint in a one-page, typed summary. Be sure to include the significance of this issue to science and society. Your summary will be anonymously peer-reviewed by a fellow classmate.

When distributing this assignment to the students, it is helpful to them if they see the peer review sheet that will be used on their paper. A criteria grid is suggested to aid the reviewers in seeing how well a student has supported his/her opinions. This sheet can be available online for students to download and then electronically submit after they complete their reviews.

Students should type their paper using MS Word and NOT include their name anywhere in the text. Tell students to use an alias as the file name, then upload the file to a dropbox in a course management software program (such as WebCT (more info) or Blackboard (more info) ). Have students email the instructor their alias. The instructor can then tell each student which file to retrieve and peer review. To simplify distributing the files for peer review, an instructor may want to consider having two students read each other's papers.

Teaching Notes and Tips

  • Be sure students are clear with the assignment instructions - both for completing the written assignment and conducting the peer review. You may want to complete a mock peer review in the classroom before giving this assignment.
  • Give students enough time to complete the assignment.
  • Save the student files in a folder on your computer that is not in the course management software program. This way, you will have a backup copy in case accidental deletions occur.
  • If you don't have a course management software program, this assignment can still be completed with having students email the files to the instructor, and the instructor forwarding on the files for peer review.


Assessment can conducted by the students using a criteria grid or open-ended form. An instructor can decide if the peer review is the final grade for the assignment, or if the instructor uses the same form and averages the two grades. However, keep in mind that one of the advantages of doing electronic peer review is that it saves the instructor time by not having to grade papers.

References and Resources

Nonhuman-induced global warming article:

Scientific American, June 24, 2003, Hot Words: A claim of nonhuman-induced global warming sparks debate.