Articles | Volume 20, issue 3
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 20, 1289–1299, 2016
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 20, 1289–1299, 2016

Research article 31 Mar 2016

Research article | 31 Mar 2016

Enhancing the T-shaped learning profile when teaching hydrology using data, modeling, and visualization activities

Christopher A. Sanchez1, Benjamin L. Ruddell2, Roy Schiesser3, and Venkatesh Merwade4 Christopher A. Sanchez et al.
  • 1Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, USA
  • 2Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA
  • 3Chandler-Gilbert Community College, Chandler, Arizona, USA
  • 4Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA

Abstract. Previous research has suggested that the use of more authentic learning activities can produce more robust and durable knowledge gains. This is consistent with calls within civil engineering education, specifically hydrology, that suggest that curricula should more often include professional perspective and data analysis skills to better develop the "T-shaped" knowledge profile of a professional hydrologist (i.e., professional breadth combined with technical depth). It was expected that the inclusion of a data-driven simulation lab exercise that was contextualized within a real-world situation and more consistent with the job duties of a professional in the field, would provide enhanced learning and appreciation of job duties beyond more conventional paper-and-pencil exercises in a lower-division undergraduate course. Results indicate that while students learned in both conditions, learning was enhanced for the data-driven simulation group in nearly every content area. This pattern of results suggests that the use of data-driven modeling and visualization activities can have a significant positive impact on instruction. This increase in learning likely facilitates the development of student perspective and conceptual mastery, enabling students to make better choices about their studies, while also better preparing them for work as a professional in the field.

Short summary
The use of authentic learning activities is especially important for place-based geosciences like hydrology, where professional breadth and technical depth are critical for practicing hydrologists. The current study found that integrating computerized learning content into the learning experience, using only a simple spreadsheet tool and readily available hydrological data, can effectively bring the "real world" into the classroom and provide an enriching educational experience.