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Meteorology

Overview: 
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The Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences offers an opportunity for United States Air Force men and women who have an Associate’s degree in Weather Technology/Meteorology from the Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) to acquire a Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) in Meteorology through University of Arizona South.  This degree provides a curriculum that closely aligns to the learning outcomes and requirements set by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the American Meteorological Society (AMS), and the National Weather Service (NWS) for foundational knowledge in weather forecasting.  The unique aspect of this program is that the learning acquired by the graduates is internationally recognized, and thus allows the graduates to work anywhere in the world as a forecaster.  The Bachelor of Applied Science in Meteorology is also one of the only programs in the world to offer a quantitative program online for transfer students.  This means that the course work is heavily rooted in mathematics, physics, and computer programming to explain atmospheric phenomena and the ability to forecast such events.  This quantitative knowledge that our graduates possess gives them an advantage in looking for careers in weather forecasting, and allows them to work in other applied science fields or pursue a post-graduate degree in Atmospheric Science or other related fields.

The curriculum offers a number of courses that are crucial for a meteorologist and atmospheric scientist.  The content includes foundations in mathematics and physics, computer programming, hydrology, climatology, physical meteorology, atmospheric dynamics, remote sensing, and synoptic and mesoscale meteorology.  The faculty members who are involved in teaching and developing the courses offer the knowledge of their field and their experience to the students.  Their research covers a wide range of topics under the Earth-atmosphere system, including hydrology, hydrometeorology, atmospheric chemistry and aerosols, climate and global change, numerical weather prediction, lightning and atmospheric electricity, radiation and remote sensing, synoptic, and tropical and mesoscale meteorology.  This span of specialty knowledge brings a variety of real world applications of the content to the BAS Meteorology courses.

Expected Learning Outcomes: 

The learning outcomes for the program were designed with the learning outcomes and requirements specified by the WMO, NWS, and AMS for meteorological preparation programs as a reference.  These outcomes are represented across the BAS Meteorology curriculum, and each does not necessarily represent one specific course.  The major topics that are discussed throughout the curriculum are as follows:

The learning outcomes below reflect what atmospheric scientists/meteorologists should be able to do at the end of their undergraduate degree curriculum.

Learning Outcomes Fully Assessed by the End of the Academic Program

Students will be able to:

1.     demonstrate their understanding of foundational knowledge, concepts, and equations in atmospheric science as well as other related topics through mathematical derivations and explanations.

2.     analyze atmospheric/atmospheric related problems and datasets, obtained through multiple sources, by applying foundational knowledge as well as mathematical, statistical, and numerical methods using computer coding software, and knowledge of the foundational topics.

3.     synthesize and communicate scientific conclusions (ex. weather forecasts, research findings) in a clear and concise manner based on data analysis.

4.     evaluate the reliability and validity of scientific conclusions using critical thinking skills and knowledge of the different physical, environmental, and geographic influencing factors.

Assessment Activities: 

Assessment Activities and Learning Outcomes file attached reflects both the direct and indirect measurements of the learning outcomes for the BAS Meteorology program.  Currently, direct measurements of this program are assessed through various coursework, while indirect measurements are given to the students at the end of their degree program. 

The direct measurements are assessed during the courses with summative assessments that typically come in the form of either traditional exams or projects.  The reason they are referred to as direct measurements is that students demonstrate their proficiency regarding those outcomes.  The instructor then gives feedback to the student on their performance.

These indirect measurements are student assessments of the program overall, and include the Program Assessment Rubric and the Reflection Survey.  The Program Assessment Rubric involves student and program manager rankings on a scale from 1-5 on how well they feel (and the program manager feels) they meet the particular learning outcome.  1 is the lowest performing rank meaning ‘needs improvement’, and 5 is the highest performing rank meaning ‘Excellent’.  There are boxes for comments.  The reflection survey includes two short explanation questions.  Please see the attached BASMet_Program_Assessment_Rubric.pdf and BASMet_Reflection_Survey.pdf.

Assessment Findings: 

Program Assessment Rubric

As stated above, these findings are only based on one student currently graduated.  In the future, all assessment information from students who graduate will be collected for analyzation.

The figures attached (Program Assessment Rubric Figure-Student and Program Assessment Rubric Figure-Program Manager) represent feedback given by the student and the program manager on the 5 point scale rubric, which we call the Program Assessment Rubric.  Both the student and the program manager have very similar feedback for the student’s performance on each learning outcome, and the student is clearly above average (3 = average).  The overall score is given by looking at the performance of the student over the entirety of their coursework in the BAS Meteorology program (see Assessment Activities and Learning Outcomes Table attached).

Reflection Survey

The reflection survey was particularly enlightening.  The student was able to elaborate on the program, and how well they felt the program prepared them to meet the learning outcomes.  Overall the student said that they felt the coursework was average to above average in helping them achieve competence in the learning outcomes.  They mention that the concepts taught during this degree linked up nicely to what they had already learned during their Associate’s in Weather Technology, but was more rigorous and involved mathematical and physical explanations.  This student pointed out that some of the courses were better constructed than others.  They did not necessarily elaborate on why some courses were better, except for saying that some were more comprehensive than others, and they felt they related more directly to the learning outcomes.  The coursework that the student felt was “excellent” in helping them achieve those learning outcomes were ATMO 441a: Dynamic Meteorology I and ATMO 430: Computational Methods in Atmospheric Sciences.  The student does feel that this program is a great investment to help these USAF men and women either commission as an officer or work in the civilian sector as a meteorologist.  They feel that the skills and knowledge gained during the program will help with professional goals.

Since most of our students are working while going through this program, many of them do not go full time.  The student mentioned in their reflection that it is sometimes hard to recall important foundational mathematics or physics concepts needed for the upper level atmospheric science classes when they were taken quite a while ago.  This causes a struggle with the mathematical portions of the class, even if the conceptual understanding is adequate. 

The student also mentioned some additional topics that could prepare students to more thoroughly meet the learning outcomes.  Those topics are ordinary differential equations, basic chemistry, and a second semester of dynamic meteorology.

Change in Response to Findings: 

After going through the first round of assessments, there are several changes that will be made.  Some are identified by the student, and others are identified as flaws in the assessment process as of this time.  The changes that will be made will include an improvement of the Program Assessment Rubric (for both the program manager/mentor and the student), incorporating an optional Atmospheric Science certificate where students can take additional classes to help them align further to NWS and WMO criteria, and replacing some of the existing courses that are required for the major currently with more relevant classes to the learning outcomes. 

The changes with the Program Assessment Rubric will be to reduce the number of scores to 4, and then include criteria within those scores.  The scores on the rubric now are vague, and it is not really clear what constitutes a score of 5 (excellent) versus a 3 (average) etc. for each outcome.  The addition of criteria under each score will change that.  Reducing from 5 to 4 will also help in the clarity.  A score of a 4 will be considered ‘advanced’, a 3 will be ‘proficient’, a 2 will be ‘basic’, and a 1 will be ‘unsatisfactory’.  Criteria will be developed for levels 4, 3, and 2, and will be written in the positive language.  This means that the criteria under 2 will show what the student demonstrated to score a 2, and 3 will start with “In addition to level 2 skills…”.  This will be the same for level 4, which will say “In addition to level 3 skills…”.  This rubric will be developed throughout the fall, and will be intended for used with the students for next year.

The addition of the atmospheric certificate is something that has already been submitted to the University of Arizona curricular affairs for approval.  The BAS degrees have a very particular structure, and as a result no more classes can be added to the degree program without taking other classes away.  The addition of the atmospheric certificate will allow students who want to further align with the World Meteorological Organization standards to take additional classes like ordinary differential equations and other atmospheric classes that will help them specialize.  This certificate is not required to graduate, as different students with different future and career goals may not necessarily need the additional classes. 

The curriculum has also been adjusted over this past year to help prepare students further in the direction of the learning outcomes.  This includes replacing some of the required major classes with others that more directly align.  Introduction to Remote Sensing for the Atmosphere and Hydrosphere (ATMO 455) is now created and used in place of another course that did not focus on these applications of remote sensing.  Dynamic Meteorology II (ATMO 441b) has also replaced a different atmospheric course.  This will help focus more on especially the first 3 learning outcomes.

Updated date: Tue, 07/11/2017 - 12:53