92nd American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting (January 22-26, 2012)

Tuesday, 24 January 2012: 11:15 AM
An Assessment of Traditional Versus Inquiry-Based Lab Approaches for Undergraduate Meteorological Instruction
Room 348/349 (New Orleans Convention Center )
Shaunna L. Donaher, Univ. of Miami/RSMAS, Miami, FL; and K. A. Kloesel, O. Lee-Salwen, and B. A. Albrecht

This study examines the most effective way to use meteorological data from a field campaign in an upper-level undergraduate meteorology classroom. The data used in this experiment consist of remote and in-situ observations collected in hurricane rainbands over land in South Florida, and include variables from rawindsondes, surface instruments, and multiple wavelength radars. This study is applied to 50 senior undergraduate meteorology majors in METR 4424, a synoptic meteorology laboratory at the University of Oklahoma. This investigation involves spending four 105 minute class periods with the students. The first course day includes a content pretest and an evaluation of the students' attitude towards various lab styles, and then an interactive lecture is given to describe the field campaign and instrumentation used, as well as make sure that prerequisite knowledge needed for the lab is reviewed. From there, the students are randomly assigned to one of two groups for the lab portion, which takes place during the second course day for Group 1 and third course day for Group 2. Both groups are given the exact same data files, but the laboratory approaches vary. Group 1 receives a traditional lab approach, with step-by-step instructions on how to use the data files to make figures, as well as directions about which figures to analyze to reach scientific conclusions. In this approach, content topics are grouped and introduced in sections along with the relevant data. Group 1 students work on the lab individually, and are allowed to ask the lab instructor for help with technical issues, such as loading and plotting data, but are not lead towards specific answers. Alternatively, Group 2 is guided through the lab with an inquiry-based approach, where the students act as the scientists by deciding how best to use the data set to reach scientific conclusions. In this approach, students receive the data files and take on more active roles in the investigation by designing experimental procedures and looking for key scientific discoveries. With this experiment, concepts are presented as scientific questions and the students are responsible for deciding how to use the data files to answer those questions. During the inquiry lab, classroom collaboration and discussion is utilized to check for understanding and lead students toward developing a valid understanding of scientific ideas.

Some of the topics covered in both labs include location of wind maximums in horizontal, radial, and tangential wind profiles; how wind speeds and direction vary near the surface; how moisture profiles fluctuate with height; and why two instruments might have inconsistencies in their measurement of variables. On the final class day, all students receive a content posttest, and a group discussion with feedback from the lab approaches will take place. Several weeks after the initial posttest, a second posttest will be given to assess content retention. Results comparing the two groups' respective content growth, retention, and attitude about the laboratory approach will be presented and discussed.

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