Results of Formal Evaluation of a Data and Modeling Driven Hydrology Learning Module

Friday, 19 December 2014
Benjamin L Ruddell, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, United States, Christopher A Sanchez, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, United States, Roy Schiesser, Chandler-Gilbert Community College, Gilbert, AZ, United States and Venkatesh Merwade, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, United States
New hydrologists should not only develop a well-defined knowledgebase of basic hydrological concepts, but also synthesize this factual learning with more authentic ‘real-world’ knowledge gained from the interpretation and analysis of data from hydrological models (Merwade and Ruddell, 2012, Wagener et al., 2007). However, hydrological instruction is often implemented using a traditional teacher-centered approach (e.g., lectures) (Wagener, 2007). The emergence of rich and dynamic computer simulation techniques which allow students the opportunity for more authentic application of knowledge (Merwade & Ruddell, 2012). This study evaluates the efficacy of using such data-driven simulations to increase the understanding of the field of hydrology in the lower-division undergraduate geoscience classroom.

In this study, 88 students at a local community college who were enrolled in an Introductory Earth Science class were evaluated on their learning performance in a unit on applying the Rational Method to estimate hydrographs and flooding for urban areas. Students were either presented with a data and visualization rich computer module (n=52), or with paper and pencil calculation activities (n=36). All conceptual material presented in lecture was consistent across these two conditions. Students were evaluated for not only changes in their knowledge and application of the concepts within the unit (e.g., effects of urbanization and impervious cover, discharge rates), but also for their broad “T-shaped” profile of professional knowledge and skills. While results showed significant (p<.05) increases from pre to post assessments in all learning areas for both groups, there is a significantly larger benefit for the data module group when it came to (1) understanding the effects of urbanization and impervious cover on flooding, (2) applying consistent vocabulary appropriately within context, and (3) explaining the roles and responsibilities of hydrologists and flood managers.