Bringing authentic science practice to the undergraduate classroom

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Tuesday, 19 January 2010: 2:30 PM
B214 (GWCC)
Kathleen Quardokus, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN; and S. Lasher-Trapp and E. M. Riggs

Presentation PDF (137.2 kB)

There is a societal need for atmospheric scientists who can serve as authorities on weather and climate phenomena, and help interpret the associated information, but many traditional undergraduate atmospheric science programs do not adequately emphasize the process of science and the evolutionary nature of its results. Research experience is often viewed as an extracurricular activity, reserved for advanced students, rather than something to be included in the main curriculum. Most of the graduates of such programs fail to appreciate the strengths and limitations of scientific information, which hinders their ability to correctly interpret this information for each other, policymakers, the media and the general public.

To prepare atmospheric scientists better for these important roles, a new atmospheric science laboratory for sophomores, emphasizing research methods, the nature of science, and improved communication of research results, has been developed at Purdue University. The new laboratory is based upon the very successful model developed by the chemistry community within the Center for Authentic Science Practice in Education (CASPiE) initiated at Purdue University. In the CASPiE model, the students' laboratory experiments are a component of a larger research project conducted by a faculty member. Students are engaged in experimental design and hypothesis testing within the scope of the larger research question, and thus gain experience with the authentic process of science, as well as fundamental atmospheric science skills. In turn, the data that the students collect are intended to be used as part of the faculty member's work and, if possible, contribute to publishable research. An adaption of the CASPiE model to atmospheric science, first used in the Fall semester of 2009, will be presented as a paradigm that could be applied within or across other atmospheric science programs. Future work, including assessments of the improvement of students' understanding of scientific research and its methods, and of any improvement in their ability to communicate science, will also be presented.