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Each year, over 200,000 students take introductory astronomy—hereafter referred to as ASTRO 101; the majority of these students are non-science majors. Most are taking ASTRO 101 to fulfill a university science requirement and many approach science with some mix of fear and disinterest. The traditional approach to winning over these students has been to emphasize creative and engaging lectures, taking full advantage of both demonstrations and awe-inspiring astronomical images. However, what a growing body of evidence in astronomy and physics education research has been demonstrating is that even the most popular and engaging lectures do not engender the depth of learning for which faculty appropriately aim. Rigorous research into student learning tells us that one critical factor in promoting classroom learning is students' active "minds-on" participation. This is best expressed in the mantra: "It's not what the teacher does that matters; it's what the students do."
Lecture-Tutorials for Introductory Astronomy has been developed in response to the demand from astronomy instructors for easily implemented student activities for integration into existing course structures. Rather than asking faculty—and students—to convert to an entirely new course structure, our approach in developing Lecture-Tutorials was to create classroom-ready materials to augment more traditional lectures. Any of the activities in this manual can be inserted at the end of lecture presentations and, because of the education research program that led to the activities' development, we are confident in asserting that the activities will lead todeeper and more complete student understanding of the concepts addressed.
Each Lecture-Tutorial presents a structured series of questions designed to confront and resolve student difficulties with a particular topic. Confronting difficulties often means answering questions incorrectly; this is expected. When this happens, the activities are crafted to help a student understand where her or his reasoning went wrong and to develop a more thorough understanding as a result. Therefore, while completing the activities, students are encouraged to focus more on their reasoning and less on trying to guess an expected answer. The activities are meant to be completed by students working in pairs who "talk out" the answers with each other to make their thinking explicit.
At the conclusion of each Lecture-Tutorial, instructors are strongly encouraged to engage their class in a brief discussion about the particularly difficult concepts in the activity—an essential implementation step that brings closure to the activity. The online Instructor's Guide also provides "post-tutorial" questions that can be used to gauge the effectiveness of the Lecture-Tutorial before moving on to new material.