This authentic assessment example is from Victoria University’s Graduate Certificate in Planetary Health in a unit called 'Responding to climate change through a planetary health lens'.

The contributing Academics are Dr Efrat Eilam & Associate Professor Jeannie Rea.

Example Op-ed

  • Overview: Write an op-ed on the impact of the 2019/2020 bushfires and future preparedness.
  • Length: 750 words
  • Weighting: 30%
  • Due: After session 3 of 8
  • AQF level: 8

  • Conduct research into climate change and environmental disasters.
  • Practise advocating for climate change mitigation/adaptation strategies.

  • LO1: Understand and articulate the scientific bases of climate change
  • LO2: Understand and identify the cross-disciplinary (inter-, multi-, trans-) nature of CC and its inter-connectedness with all other human-related systems (economy, policy & governance, socio-culture, ethics)
  • LO3: Critically review local drivers of CC and future CC projections

Background

The summer of 2019/2020 witnessed the most catastrophic wildfires ever recorded in Australia and globally. The fire season began much earlier than usual, in early September 2019, and continued for seven months, to March 2020. During this period, an estimated 900 million metric tons (MMT) of carbon dioxide was spewed into the atmosphere, more than double the amount of Australia’s annual carbon emissions (approximately 400 MMT annually).

The fires burned an estimated 186,000 square kilometres, killing 34 people directly and 417 indirectly from smoke pollution. An estimated one billion animals have been killed, including a third of the koala population, driving it and other endangered species closer to extinction. Over 5,900 buildings were destroyed. The air quality throughout the region dropped to hazardous levels and remained so for many days.

Why were the wildfires so ferocious? Why did they occur to this extent, in this summer, and not in other summers? In class, we will be discussing the global and local climate change drivers, which enabled the development of these catastrophic conditions at this time. For now, it is sufficient to state that the summer of 2019 was the warmest and driest on record. The combination of extreme high temperatures, low relative humidity, low soil moisture and strong winds combined to create ideal conditions for the rapid spread of fires.

Task

Write an op-ed addressing the topic “The impact of the 2019/2020 bushfires and future preparedness”.

Choose one of the following impacts and focus only on it:

  • Smoke haze on public health (mental and physical)
  • The wildfires on the farming industry (discuss only non-economic impacts)
  • The wildfires on affected communities
  • The wildfires on biodiversity loss
  • Fire ash on water systems.

In your op-ed, you need to first discuss the impact using scientific evidence (approximately 450 words). You then need to persuasively advocate for a mitigation or adaptation strategy, based on the presented evidence (approximately 300 words).

Your work must include:

  • A short, catchy title to capture your main argument (the reader needs to get a clear idea regarding the impact and strategy just from reading the title)
  • A description of the big, overarching idea of your op-ed in the first 1 to 3 sentences
  • A description of the effects of the impact in the next 2 to 3 paragraphs, using no less than 4 scientific resources
    • At least one of these resources needs to be a peer-reviewed article
    • Other acceptable resources are reports by reputable organisations (e.g. CSIRO), or non-academic journal articles, written by academics (e.g. The Conversation)
  • Your persuasive opinion about an appropriate mitigation or adaptation strategy – make sure your proposal is highly connected to the impact, and that there is a good flow between the description of the impact and the suggested strategy
  • A summary of your argument in a strong final sentence
  • A reference list using the Harvard style.

  1. Carefully read the assessment requirements, criteria and rubric.
  2. Choose one of the impacts listed above.
  3. Research your chosen impact.
  4. Write your op-ed and evaluate it against the rubric criteria.
  5. Finalise and submit your work to the Dropbox after Session 3.

Criterion 1: Clear, focused title

Criterion 2: Description of context, challenges and impact

Criterion 3: Strategy and argument

Criterion 4: Structure and presentation

Full rubric

CRITERIA HIGH DISTINCTION (80-100%) DISTINCTION (70-79%) CREDIT (60-69%) PASS (50-59%) N (0-49%)

CLEAR, FOCUSED TITLE (10%)

Appropriate selection of title sharply focused on proposed strategy (the opinion) in relation to the chosen impact (the evidence).

Title addresses proposed strategy (the opinion) in relation to the chosen impact (the evidence).

Title relevant to proposed strategy (the opinion) in relation to the chosen impact (the evidence).

Title is limited in focus in relation to the strategy and/or impact

Title is limited in focus and/or ambiguous.

DESCRIPTION OF CONTEXT, CHALLENGES AND IMPACT (30%)

The opening sentences effectively contextualise overarching idea.

The chosen impact is described succinctly and comprehensively focusing on the main effects.

Claims are firmly supported by appropriate references.

Clearly addresses the evidence

The opening sentences contextualise overarching idea.

The chosen impact is described comprehensively focusing on the main effects.

Claims are firmly supported by appropriate references.

Addresses the evidence.

The opening sentences introduce overarching idea.

The chosen impact is described including most of the main effects.

Claims are firmly supported by references.

Addresses evidence with occasional confusion with opinion.

The opening sentences state the overarching idea.

The chosen impact is described in a limited way.

Claims are mostly supported by references.

Limited use of evidence drawing more on opinion.

The opening sentences have superficial connection to the overarching idea.

The chosen impact is insufficiently described, lacks focusand/or discusses marginal issues.

Claims are poorly or not supported by references, presents opinions rather than evidence.

STRATEGY AND ARGUMENT (30%)

Succinctly and clearly argues recommended intervention, strongly relating it to the problem and its contextual relevance.

Justification leads up to a strong conclusion based on evidence presented.

Clearly argues recommended intervention, explaining it in relation to the problem and its contextual relevance.

Clear structure leading up to a conclusion based on evidence.

Some key recommendations justified in relation to problem and context.

Structure is mostly clear, draws upon evidence and leads up to a conclusion.

Some recommendations made with occasional justification and occassional mention of problem and context.

Structure is mostly clear, draws upon limited evidence and leads up to a narrow/limited conclusion.

Recommendations made with unclear and/or inaccurate with key elements missing.

Structure is unclear.

Ambiguous or no conclusion.

STRUCTURE AND PRESENTATION (15%)

Overall structure and presentation are logical, clear an coherent.

Good, easy flow between paragraphs.

Figures and tables are well integrated and used appropriately to further argument.

Overall structure and presentation are clear an coherent.

Good paragraphing.

Figures and tables are appropriately used.

Overall structure is clear.

Paragraph structure is clear.

Figures and tables are used mostly in an appropriate way.

Overall structure is occasionally unclear.

Paragraph structure has limited flow.

Figures and tables are used in an limited way.

Overall structure is unclear.

Paragraph structure lacks coherency and flow.

Inappropriate or no use of tables and figures.

There are occasional repetitions.

REFERENCING AND USE OF INFORMATION IN A SCHOLARLY AND ETHICAL MANNER (15%)

Skilful use of high quality credible, relevant sources to develop ideas.

Accurate citations and references using Harvard style. All sources cited. Appropriate paraphrasing and use of direct quotes.

Consistent use of high quality credible, relevant sources to develop ideas that are situated within the discipline.

Accurate citations and references using Harvard style. All sources cited.

Demonstrates and attempt to use credible, relevant sources to support ideas.

Some imprecise citations and references and/or deviation from the Harvard style. Most sources cited.

Demonstrates and attempt to use sources to support ideas in the writing.

Incomplete and imprecise citations referencing.

Sources are poorly or inadequately used to support ideas.

Incomplete and imprecise referencing.