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Jonathan D. W. Kahl

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.

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Jonathan D. W. Kahl and Julia G. Cerón

For several years the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee's Atmospheric Science group has offered the faculty-led study abroad program Mexico: Air Pollution and Ancient Cultures. In this course, open to both atmospheric science majors and nonmajors as well as to students attending other colleges and universities, participating students learn about the corrosive effects of acid deposition on the limestone surfaces of Mesoamerican archaeological sites. The course content includes not only the science aspects of acid rain and environmental corrosion, but also aspects of Mesoamerican history and anthropology, as well as personal reflection on a variety of social science topics via journaling. The academic content is delivered via lectures and laboratories, guided tours of museums and archaeological sites, visits to Mexican universities, and hands-on measurements and analysis. Postprogram surveys indicate that participating students consider the program to be quite valuable in terms of both academic and personal growth.

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