John Marshall

Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Oceanography, MIT

The Effectiveness of Rotating Tank Experiments in Teaching Undergraduate Courses in Atmospheres, Oceans, and Climate Sciences

The Effectiveness of Rotating Tank Experiments in Teaching Undergraduate Courses in Atmospheres, Oceans, and Climate Sciences.

(Mackin, Kathleen and Cook-Smith, Nancy and Illari, Lodovica and Marshall, John and Sadler, Phillip), Journal of Geoscience Education, vol. 60, no. 1, 2012.

Abstract

While it is commonly recognized that laboratory experiments and demonstrations have made a considerable contribution to our understanding of fluid dynamics, few U.S. universities that offer courses in meteorology and/or oceanography provide opportunities for students to observe fluid experiments in the classroom. This article explores the evaluation results of a three-year, NSF-funded project in partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and five universities nationally, to provide laboratory demonstrations, equipment, and curriculum materials for use in the teaching of atmospheres, oceans, and climate. The aim of the project was to offer instructors a repertoire of rotating tank experiments and a curriculum in fluid dynamics to better assist students in learning how to move between phenomena in the real world and basic principles of rotating fluid dynamics, which play a central role in determining the climate of the planet. The evaluation highlights the overwhelmingly positive responses from instructors and students who used the experiments, citing that the Weather in a Tank curriculum offered a less passive and more engaged and interactive teaching and learning environment. Results of three years of pre- and posttesting on measures of content related to atmospheres, oceans, and climate sciences with over 900 students in treatment and comparison conditions, revealed that the treatment groups consistently made greater gains at the posttest than the comparison groups, especially those students in introductory level courses and lab courses.

doi = 10.5408/10-194.1