The Atmospheric Science program at the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee regularly offers the general education course Survey of Meteorology, serving over 400 students each year. This article describes a systematic inquiry into the teaching and learning goals of the course and the adequacy of current methods used to assess student performance. Following a survey of the six faculty members with teaching responsibilities for the course, common student learning goals of meteorological content and the application of meteorological concepts to observations were identified. Student surveys, designed to assess both the extent to which these learning goals were being met as well as the depth of learning, were administered to 241 students during the 2005–06 academic year. Results indicate that 80% of students surveyed met the content learning goal, while the application learning goal was met by only 66% of students. A deeper level of application learning, involving pattern recognition and the separation of concepts into component parts, was achieved by only 45% of the students. A comparison of student survey results with course grade distributions indicates that current grading practices are adequate for assessing the content learning goal but are inadequate for assessing the application learning goal.
Atmospheric Science Group, Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin