Curriculum expansion for AMS Weather and Ocean Studies at the University of Houston Downtown (UHD)

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Monday, 18 January 2010
Ayorinde O. Idowu, University of Houston Downtown, Houston, TX

Handout (76.2 kB)

The history of teaching the AMS version of Weather Studies at the Department of Natural Sciences of UHD dates back to Year 2004 when it began with one section consisting of 25 students. Student's enrollment has grown steadily to fill three sections of Introduction to Meteorology (GEOL 1304) by Fall semester in 2008, and I am involved with lecturing these classes to date. I have also been engaged teaching the full Online AMS Weather and Ocean Studies courses at the Houston Community College System (HCCS) since Year 2004 while student enrollment has also grown substantially to date. Most of the students have been non-science majors, of diverse and minority origin, and have weak analytical skills but enrolled to fulfill a general science requirement for their various major degrees. I was recently mandated to participate in the development of a new Oceanography course (GEOL 2390) which I will teach from Fall 2009. A major achievement is that this is a Sophomore level course designed based on the AMS Ocean Studies course for the first time for both science majors and non-majors, part of the expansion of the major degree curriculum in the Department of Natural Sciences at UHD.

Accomplishments offering AMS courses include a tremendous increase in retention level of minority students, while the AMS Weather Studies course has become one of the most popular options among other physical sciences in the Department. The student-centered instruction technique has been adopted to actively engage their minds, with lots of peer interaction, plenty of formative assessment integrated with instruction, and a focus on concepts. The learner-centered strategy is enhanced by learning from visualization plus reference to current events in weather and oceanographic issues as they impact on society. The well-researched learner-centered instructional technique has been an interactive and engaging approach that involved collaborative group cooperation.

Lessons learned from past experiences reveal that Faculty should engage in the process of continual improvement designed to enhance student outcomes and teacher satisfaction. Achieving teaching excellence takes time, requires honest reflection on student's feedbacks, plus repeated revision, and fine-tuning approaches. A major achievement is witnessed in the higher student retention rate, and passive students have ultimately turned into active learners with a renewed sense of appreciation for Meteorology and Oceanography.