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Peggy McNeal, Wendilyn Flynn, Cody Kirkpatrick, Dawn Kopacz, Daphne LaDue, and Lindsay C. Maudlin

Abstract

Educators can enrich their teaching with best practices, share resources, and contribute to the growing atmospheric science education research community by reading and participating in the scholarship of teaching and learning in atmospheric science. This body of scholarship has grown, particularly over the past fifteen years, and is now a sizable literature base that documents and exemplifies numerous teaching innovations in undergraduate atmospheric science education. This literature base benefits the entire atmospheric science community because graduates of atmospheric science programs are better prepared to enter the workforce. This literature base has not yet been examined, however, to see how well the evidence supports education practices in the atmospheric science education literature. In this study, we characterized that evidence and show that the majority of papers we reviewed share education innovations with anecdotal or correlational evidence of effectiveness. While providing useful practitioner knowledge and preliminary evidence of the effectiveness of numerous innovative teaching practices, opportunities exist for increasing readers’ confidence that the innovations caused the learning gains. Additional studies would also help move conclusions toward generalizability across academic institutions and student populations. We make recommendations for advancing atmospheric science education research and encourage atmospheric science educators to actively use the growing body of education literature as well as contribute to advancing atmospheric science education research.

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Zachary J. Handlos, Casey Davenport, and Dawn Kopacz

Abstract

Extensive research within STEM fields has demonstrated that active learning leads to greater educational success for students relative to traditional lecture methods. While studies have explored active learning use across various STEM fields, minimal research has focused specifically on the atmospheric sciences. A baseline knowledge of the use of active learning in this field is vital for determining instructional effectiveness and can identify areas for improvement.

The goal of this study is to provide a baseline regarding the state of active learning within the atmospheric sciences, including understanding what active learning strategies are most widely used, their frequency of use, and who is using them. Atmospheric science instructors were invited to participate in an online survey to provide information about their active learning use in the classroom and resources used to learn more about active learning strategies. Survey results indicate that case studies are the most popular high-use active learning strategy across all levels of instruction, though how they are implemented within the classroom is not clear. New atmospheric science instructors, instructors beyond the typical 5 year tenure mark, and female instructors exhibit the highest number of unique active learning strategies. Future work stresses the need for a larger sample size and more direct classroom observation of instructors using active learning.

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Dawn Kopacz, Lindsay C. Maudlin, Wendilyn J. Flynn, Zachary J. Handlos, Adam Hirsch, and Swarndeep Gill

Abstract

Increasing participation in education research and encouraging the use of evidence-based practices in the classroom has been identified as a Grand Challenge in the Geosciences. As a first step in addressing this Grand Challenge, a survey was developed and disseminated to a broad range of atmospheric science professionals to collect data about 1) the number of community members involved in atmospheric science education research (ASER); 2) whether ASER is valued within the community, and if so, to what extent; 3) potential barriers to involvement in ASER; and 4) the resources necessary to encourage involvement in ASER. Survey results revealed that while many in the atmospheric science community highly value education research, barriers to greater involvement include a perceived lack of value and a lack of visibility of ASER. Recommendations are made for addressing these barriers.

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Markus Petters

Abstract

Student-centered active learning pedagogies improve learning outcomes and increase the engagement of underrepresented groups. Implementing such pedagogies requires interactive tools for students to manipulate inputs and use the outputs to construct knowledge. This work introduces interactive worksheets for teaching about atmospheric aerosol and cloud physics and describes the toolchain to create and deliver the content. The material is appropriate for upper-level undergraduate and graduate instruction with pedagogy based on process-oriented guided inquiry learning. Students playfully interact with physical relationships and atmospheric models. Two examples are the interaction with an aerosol–cloud parcel model for simulating the early stage of cloud formation and the interaction with the Bowen model for simulating the formation of rain by coalescence. Photos, text, figures, and software associated with the project are free to be shared and free to be adapted. In addition to focusing on discipline-based learning objectives, the worksheets emphasize interacting with real-world data and practicing graph comprehension. Hosting the content in the cloud ensures reliable and scalable delivery to any device with a browser and Internet access. The worksheets are designed to be used in a student-centered active learning classroom but can also be used in an online setting.

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Marilé Colón Robles, Helen M. Amos, J. Brant Dodson, Jeffrey Bouwman, Tina Rogerson, Annette Bombosch, Lauren Farmer, Autumn Burdick, Jessica Taylor, and Lin H. Chambers

Abstract

Citizen science is often recognized for its potential to directly engage the public in science, and is uniquely positioned to support and extend participants’ learning in science. In March 2018, the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Program, NASA’s largest and longest-lasting citizen science program about Earth, organized a month-long event that asked people around the world to contribute daily cloud observations and photographs of the sky (15 March–15 April 2018). What was considered a simple engagement activity turned into an unprecedented worldwide event that garnered major public interest and media recognition, collecting over 55,000 observations from 99 different countries, in more than 15,000 locations, on every continent including Antarctica. The event was called the “Spring Cloud Challenge” and was created to 1) engage the general public in the scientific process and promote the use of the GLOBE Observer app, 2) collect ground-based visual observations of varying cloud types during boreal spring, and 3) increase the number and locations of ground-based visual cloud observations collocated with cloud-observing satellites. The event resulted in roughly 3 times more observations than during the historic and highly publicized 2017 North American total solar eclipse. The dataset also includes observations over the Drake Passage in Antarctica and reports from intense Saharan dust events. This article describes how the challenge was crafted, outreach to volunteer scientists around the world, details of the data collected, and impact of the data.

Free access
Robin L. Tanamachi, Daniel T. Dawson II, and Loran Carleton Parker

Abstract

A summer course has been developed at Purdue University that leverages students’ intrinsic desire to observe tornadoes as a motivator for learning severe storms forecasting. Relative to previous “storm chasing” courses described in the literature, the Students of Purdue Observing Tornadic Thunderstorms for Research (SPOTTR) course is enhanced by active learning exercises, career exploration activities, and the inclusion of research-grade meteorological instrumentation in order to provide an authentic in-field experiential learning scenario. After teaching severe weather forecasting skills and deployment techniques for several meteorological instruments (such as a mobile radar, radiosondes, and disdrometers), the instructors then guide the students on a 1-week field trip to the Great Plains, where the group executes a miniature field campaign to collect high-quality meteorological observations in and near severe storms. On days with no targetable severe weather, the participants visit sites deemed beneficial to the students’ professional development. The final week of the course is spent performing retrospective case studies based on the observations collected, and distilling lessons learned. Surveys given to SPOTTR students show that students’ understanding of severe storms forecasting, technical skills, and career aspirations all improved as a result of having participated in the SPOTTR course, affirming the efficacy of the course design.

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Neil F. Laird and Nicholas D. Metz
Free access
Casey E. Davenport

Abstract

Atmospheric dynamics can represent a significant hurdle for students; the need to successfully apply concepts from calculus and physics, as well as the sometimes counterintuitive nature of fluid flow, combine to produce frustration and suboptimal learning. Additionally, there is often an emphasis on equation derivations and theory, rather than real-world applications. A new approach for teaching atmospheric dynamics, known as worked examples, is discussed herein. This pedagogy resolves identified challenges in a few ways: 1) reducing the cognitive load of students by explicitly demonstrating (via an expert-constructed guide) how mathematics and physics are applied to the atmosphere; 2) utilizing (as much as appropriate) real-world scenarios to demonstrate how equations explain what we observe; and 3) providing opportunities for students to critically examine the scenario, the relevant math and physics, and the underlying theory via a series of self-explanation prompts throughout the example. This study provides detailed information on the creation and implementation of worked examples in the two-semester atmospheric dynamics course sequence at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Comparisons in performance between students who took the course as a traditional lecture and derivation-based course and those who were subject to the worked examples pedagogy identify significant improvements with the new approach, especially for first-semester dynamics. Students also express deep satisfaction with the hands-on, application-based pedagogy.

Open access
Peggy McNeal, Heather Petcovic, Teresa Bals-Elsholz, and Todd Ellis

Abstract

Disembedding, or recognizing patterns in a distracting background, is a spatial thinking skill that is particularly relevant to the interpretation of meteorological surface and upper-air maps. Difficulty “seeing” patterns such as cyclonic flow, thermal ridges, or pressure gradients can make weather analysis challenging for students. In this qualitative case study, we characterize how three undergraduate meteorology students with varying disembedding skill complete a series of meteorological tasks. Videos and transcribed verbal data collected during the task, as well as participant products, were analyzed for instances of disembedding and rule-based reasoning. Results demonstrate that the student with greater disembedding skill relied on observing patterns embedded in meteorological maps in conjunction with rule-based reasoning, whereas the two students with lower disembedding skill preferred generalized application of rules. These results can aid meteorology instructors in recognizing students who struggle with disembedding data and patterns and inform the development of instructional interventions in undergraduate meteorology classrooms.

Open access
Ethan L. Nelson, Tristan S. L’Ecuyer, Adele L. Igel, and Susan C. van den Heever

Abstract

Radar is an important tool for investigating and forecasting processes in Earth’s atmosphere. More specifically, multiple frequencies of radar with sensitivities to cloud and precipitation regimes are important for process-level weather and climate studies. An online educational applet (http://lecuyer.aos.wisc.edu/radarlabviewer) has been developed to provide a learning experience about this topic with an intended audience of undergraduate and graduate university–level students. Cloud-resolving model data coupled with a radar instrument simulator provide a three-dimensional view of a midlatitude winter cyclone that is explorable through the applet. This synthetic laboratory environment provides direct comparisons between modeled hydrometeors and simulated instrument observations allowing students to visualize the concepts of attenuation, non-Rayleigh scattering, insensitivity of instruments, and viewing perspective. Variations in the minimum detectable signal of instruments also expose students to the real-world tradeoffs between instrument features and costs. Additional development and formal educational assessment of the applet is planned in the future.

Open access