5.1 A Showcase of Inquiry Labs for Synoptic Meteorology

Tuesday, 8 January 2019: 1:30 PM
North 229AB (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Keah C. Schuenemann, Metropolitan State Univ. of Denver, Denver, CO; and J. Richling and E. Regan

During the laboratory portion of the Advanced Synoptic Meteorology course for senior level undergraduates at MSU Denver, students use the Integrated Data Viewer (IDV) to explore concepts learned in lecture, guided by an inquiry lab. Inquiry labs encourage active learning by asking questions that invite students to explore the data before drawing conclusions. Inquiry labs differ from cookbook labs in that they do not give step-by-step instructions for students to follow a linear path to a conclusion. For example, after learning about the quasi-geostrophic omega equation in class, the lab reads, “Create a collection of weather maps that diagnose upward vertical motion in a cyclone using the QG omega equation. Plot precipitation. Did all areas of upward vertical motion lead to precipitation events? Why or why not?” Students then need to think back to the terms in the equation and think about omega itself to come up with a plan to show their diagnosis. Students’ first questions are often, “What level should I use to plot this variable?” This brings about discussion, debate, research using the textbook and their notes, and a few plots at multiple levels before students decide on an appropriate level. As each individual student navigates IDV on their own work station, the instructor acts as a guide or facilitator, but encourages group discussion and the sharing of ideas as discoveries are made. The instructor need not be an expert in the software, as students are encouraged to play around, problem solve, and share findings with regards to the use of the IDV as well, lowering the entrance barrier for weary instructors. While there may still be a place for cookbook labs in undergraduate education, particularly for shorter lab periods or for very specific concepts displayed in unique cases, these inquiry labs have resulted in student learning of synoptic meteorology concepts, but also of problem solving and map-making skills useful in the workplace or graduate school. Some of the beautiful maps and videos students have created for labs will be showcased in the presentation. After labs are graded and handed back, the instructor leads a group discussion summarizing the findings in the lab using student work. The instructor invites students to share their figures and analysis with the class using the document camera. The students who explored the IDV and learned new things to improve their maps can share their wisdom with the others. Students can then implement these new ideas on their next lab, progressively raising the bar for figure quality with each lab.
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