Engaging Earth- and Environmental-Science Undergraduates Through Weather Discussions and an eLearning Weather Forecasting Contest

Schultz, David; Anderson, Stuart; Seo-Zindy, Ryo
June 2013
Journal of Science Education & Technology;Jun2013, Vol. 22 Issue 3, p278
Academic Journal
For students who major in meteorology, engaging in weather forecasting can motivate learning, develop critical-thinking skills, improve their written communication, and yield better forecasts. Whether such advances apply to students who are not meteorology majors has been less demonstrated. To test this idea, a weather discussion and an eLearning weather forecasting contest were devised for a meteorology course taken by third-year undergraduate earth- and environmental-science students. The discussion consisted of using the recent, present, and future weather to amplify the topics of the week's lectures. Then, students forecasted the next day's high temperature and the probability of precipitation for Woodford, the closest official observing site to Manchester, UK. The contest ran for 10 weeks, and the students received credit for participation. The top students at the end of the contest received bonus points on their final grade. A Web-based forecast contest application was developed to register the students, receive their forecasts, and calculate weekly standings. Students who were successful in the forecast contest were not necessarily those who achieved the highest scores on the tests, demonstrating that the contest was possibly testing different skills than traditional learning. Student evaluations indicate that the weather discussion and contest were reasonably successful in engaging students to learn about the weather outside of the classroom, synthesize their knowledge from the lectures, and improve their practical understanding of the weather. Therefore, students taking a meteorology class, but not majoring in meteorology, can derive academic benefits from weather discussions and forecast contests. Nevertheless, student evaluations also indicate that better integration of the lectures, weather discussions, and the forecasting contests is necessary.


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