Outcome-based evaluation of environmental modelling tools for classroom learning
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The effectiveness of the use of Web-based modelling systems in classroom teaching to enhance student learning is difficult to evaluate. The traditional 'control group' (e.g. students not using computer models and their interfaces) is not feasible due to the intrinsic complexity of environmental issues and the many processes simulated by the computer models, which would be almost impossible to replicate without model use and relying solely on hand calculations.. The evaluation procedure described here was applied to an honours first-year class having students with excellent academic histories. Web interfaces for two environmental computer simulation models (GRASIM and L-THIA) were used. The subject matter focused on key environmental topics including water management and pollution control. Pre- and post-tests were administered for each modelling exercise to test students' learning in three categories: quantitative, qualitative and idea-eliciting. Significant improvements in test scores were observed for both quantitative and qualitative learning categories. An evaluation triangle was designed to visualize the changes in the three learning categories for the pre- and post-test scores. The exercises were deemed helpful by participating students in enhancing their understanding of the subject matter. The proposed outcome-based procedure showed great potential in objectively testing the effectiveness of Web-based modelling tools in undergraduate education, albeit that more testing on larger class size is needed to further substantiate the observed improvement. Designs of the pre- and post-test questions are also important for accurate evaluation and must take into account students' academic demography as well as the topics being taught. © 2007 TEMPUS Publications.
author list (cited authors)
Mohtar, R. H., Zhai, T., Choi, J. Y., Engel, B. A., & Fast, J. J.