It was easy to get the data on who got which got what question right, but with the MCQ questions, it wasn't easy to make an overview of who had answered what. And I found it important to see what people had answered! Only then you can evaluate how they did, and give appropriate feedback.
With all these A's, were my questions so easy? No, those of my colleague Tom were! His were done almost flawlessly. Mine were not done anywhere as well. But that was on purpose; Tom just wanted the students to engage and already think about glaciology-related stuff even before we mentioned it in the lectures. I wanted them to be very specific about finding data in literature. That's harder!
So what did I try to make them contemplate? I sometimes took a statement from literature, and then changed it a bit; could the students find the unaltered statement? I sometimes gave two values for a certain parameter from two different sources, and then asked if they disagreed, and if not, then why? They could then choose between: the measuring period was different, the measuring area was different, the method was different, that sort of stuff. They have to manage that!
One of the ones they found the hardest was when I explored a certain parameter and just dug out all kinds of data about them and then let them pick out which ones were correct. But it's a bit tricky to keep track!
One they really shouldn't have had trouble with was one where I asked about temperature over a certain depth interval in a certain ocean basin over a certain period of time. I gave several options. Two answers gave the value for a different depth and a different time period; one answer, of course, was correct, and one answer said 'we don't know, the sources don't agree'. And the last answer was the one the most given! And that's something I see more often; students seeing several different values for a parameter, and then deciding science clearly doesn't know what the actual value is, and that more research is needed. But if you do more research, you will probably find yet another value! If only because published data inevitably documents the past, and you can measure the present. So in a way, the students would say that the more research you do, the less you know. So I want to get them to evaluate the data that is out there, and realise that for instance, it's not that they don't know the temperature over a certain depth interval in a certain ocean basin over a certain period of time; they DO know that, and in addition, they also know about other time periods and other depths in the water column!
I hope this exercise will pay off, and get them to do better in the assignments to follow!
Penguins contemplating sea water temperature. Picture by Jason Auch.