Session 4: Improve your assessment practices

In this session, we suggest a few ways to assess what has been learnt about climate change, both in terms of knowledge and in terms of values or ‘deeper’ thinking and learning.


In this session, the main objective is to:

  • develop relevant skills and knowledge of curriculum content.

Knowledge to be assessed includes:

  • Understanding the large energy complex that is the climate system;
  • Distinguishing between weather and climate;
  • Understanding and applying the basic science of energy transfer in the Earth System (including the greenhouse effect, the role of solar radiation and the role of the Earth’s surface radiation);
  • Differentiating between climate change and climate variability;
  • Understanding how human activities can affect the climate.

Key knowledge questions include:

  • What is climate?
  • What is weather?
  • What ‘drives’ climate and weather?
  • How does climate change over time?
  • How do human and physical factors drive climate change?
  • What are the impacts on people and planet?
  • What can I do at a personal, institutional and community level?

Assessment methods may include:

  • Explaining complex processes simply;
  • Interpreting graphs; and
  • Compiling diagrams that synthesize processes.

Nb. Assessments include both factual recall and assessment of ‘deeper’ or ‘higher’ learning.

Assessing factual recall

Factual recall assessments focus on how much learners can remember, for example:

  • Find out if learners understand how energy flows through the system by providing them with figures or diagrams with some of the labels and arrows left out (see figures above that you can use). Let them fill these in to show that they understand the flows of energy and the role of the gases.
  • Test understanding of the greenhouse effect by asking learners to identify key components of the system each the role of the sun and short-wave radiation and the role of the Earth – long-wave radiation and the role of greenhouse gases.
  • To assess learning about the general circulation of the atmosphere, learners can complete a drawing of the globe that illustrates the major circulation types. They need to understand all the basic concepts of ‘what makes air move’ and use this knowledge to draw the major global air circulation patterns.

Aspects to be assessed include:

  1. the major circulation features and resultant surface airflow across the globe;
  2. the major winds (e.g. westerlies), which must be indicated correctly;
  3. the major pressure systems (e.g. high and low pressures, and major circulation systems such as the Hadley, Ferrel and Polar cells), which must be drawn correctly

Assessing higher-order learning skills

  • Key to understanding climate change is being able to distinguish between climate change and climate variability, and understanding how the changing atmosphere is contributing to climate change.
  • Learning activities relating to these topics that will enable you to as- sess higher order learning include assessing the collection and analysis of data, clear data presentation, and the ability to draw logical conclusions from data.

Assessing Significant Learning

The depth and quality of learning outcomes attained by pupils are assessed when measuring significant learning. It focuses on the application, synthesis, and transfer of knowledge to real-world situations rather than just simple knowledge recall. The model below demonstrates how evaluating significant learning requires a holistic approach that considers both the learning process and its outcomes. The assessment of significant learning should focus on evaluating students’ ability to apply knowledge, think critically, solve problems, and transfer learning to real-life situations.

See below the adapted Dee Fink (2003) model to demonstrate how to assess ‘significant’ learning, and you can apply it to your Change Projects in relation to teaching climate change (Energy Exchange).

Assessment strategy

Assessment strategy is provided in the Handprint Care for Teacher Education materials. The method that can be used to evaluate Significant Learning is explained in depth in Rob’s presentation, “Planning together through co-engaged assessment for and of learning all along the way.”

Watch Prof. Rob’s video on “Planning together through co-engaged assessment for and of learning all along the way” for more information.

Examples of assessment tasks

Read pages 48 to 53 to explore some of the assessment activities that are related to teaching Energy Exchange.

Activity 3: Geography Energy Exchange

15 Marks