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1 Experiments in Enhancing Student Participation in Introductory Astronomy Fran Bagenal Astrophysical & Planetary Sciences University of Colorado, Boulder.

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Presentation on theme: "1 Experiments in Enhancing Student Participation in Introductory Astronomy Fran Bagenal Astrophysical & Planetary Sciences University of Colorado, Boulder."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 Experiments in Enhancing Student Participation in Introductory Astronomy Fran Bagenal Astrophysical & Planetary Sciences University of Colorado, Boulder Thanks for discussions to: Kathy Doxas-Garvin, Nick Schneider, Doug Duncan, David Brain, Nick Gnedin, Jason Glenn, Andrew Hamilton, Dick McCray, Erica Ellingson, Josh Collwell

2 2 Background 1200 non-science majors take Intro Astro per semester at University of Colorado, Boulder 6 sections - 3 Solar System, 3 Stars&Galaxies Taught by faculty or post-doctoral researchers 21 faculty all take turns in teaching Intro Astro Research spans Astrophysical & Planetary Sci.

3 3 Teaching Experiments 1.Student response in lectures Colored cards Electronic “Clickers” 2.Classroom activities Worksheets e-Tutorials e-Labs 3.Learning Groups 5-10 students with UG coach Group meetings instead of lectures

4 4 1: Student Response in Lectures Eric Mazur Technique Students ‘vote’ for multiple choice answers during lecture - Colored cards or electronic “clickers” Allows for interactive participation even in the largest classrooms Technology records student responses, allowing performance to be graded

5 5 1: Student Response in Lectures ‘Concept Questions”, identifying important ideas Students discuss for ~3 minutes Then vote separately Interaction has multiple advantages Identifies misconceptions Paces instructor better Engages students What kind of planet has the thinnest lithosphere (in general)? A. The planet closest to the Sun B. The planet farthest from the Sun C. The largest planet D. The smallest planet E. The planet with the largest fraction of low-density rock

6 6 1: Student Response in Lectures Electronic Clickers ‘Hyper-interactive Teaching Technology’ [www.h-itt.com] Each student purchases a ‘clicker stick’ and registers it online, linking the transmitters’ unique ID with their own $30 each, bought back at $15. Classroom outfitted with receivers, a computer and projector. $10k for 250-student lecture hall

7 7 1: Student Response in Lectures Students respond to a multiple-choice question with their ‘clickers’ After the instructor closes the answering period, a histogram of votes appears on the screen (usually a different screen from the question screen) The instructor tailors the ensuing discussion around responses, focusing on incorrect responses as appropriate.

8 8 1: Student Response in Lectures Students favor use of clickers  Lecture enhanced by focusing on challenging concepts  Main complaint: cost - about $30 per student, less resale value  Appreciate ‘easy credit’ for attendance  Recognize value of staying alert Instructor morale improved!  Higher attendance  Satisfaction of student interaction  Real-time feedback keeps lectures on track With Clickers Without Clickers

9 9 1: Student Response in Lectures Additional Uses: 1.Attendance 2.Reading comprehension, to encourage reading before lecture 3.Predicting what will happen in a demonstration 4.Grading Worksheets completed during class (in groups) 5.Demographics - who attends, who is getting what type of answers right/wrong, who dis/likes what..... Teaching aid vs. Big Brother? Motivation for learning vs. lab rats?

10 10 2: Classroom Activities Computer-Based Labs - 1 section with 2-hour labs - Complements hand-on activities - In-depth exploration with interactive JAVA applets Class room Worksheets - paper - Perceived as extra homework - Grading time/cost Electronic Tutorials - At home or in class - Needs laptops + ethernet

11 11 EXAMPLE 1: What Controls the Surface Temperature of a Planet? Interactive JAVA applet Student explores how distance from the Sun affects surface temperature

12 12 EXAMPLE 1: What Controls the Surface Temperature of a Planet? Interactive JAVA applet Student explores how amount and type of gases control the greenhouse effect

13 13 EXAMPLE 1: What Controls the Surface Temperature of a Planet? Interactive JAVA applet Student explores how water vapor, carbon dioxide and methane control the amount of IR absorbed by the atmosphere

14 14 EXAMPLE 1: What Controls the Surface Temperature of a Planet? JAVA applets are based on physical model Math is hidden - unless you ask to see it Modules on Kepler’s Laws and the Greenhouse Effect available at Developed by Isidoros Doxas and Fran Bagenal

15 15 2: Classroom Activities Bring-Your-Laptop-to-Class-Fridays 72-student section Wired class room 4 laptops provided, ~4 students brought laptops, remainder used computer lab across the hall 10 class activities, 1% attendance grade each Electronic tutorials - part of Astronomy Place website accompanying the Cosmic Perspectives text published by Addison Wesley

16 16 EXAMPLE 2: What Causes the Seasons? Interactive electronic tutorial Student is guided by questions on processes controlling the seasons In class activity or home study From Astronomy Place - website accompanying Cosmic Perspectives - Addison Wesley

17 17 EXAMPLE 2: What Causes the Seasons? Multi-part lessons Animations and interactives (using Flash) From Astronomy Place - website accompanying Cosmic Perspectives - Addison Wesley

18 18 EXAMPLE 2: What Causes the Seasons? When the student moves the person (right) around the globe, the view of the Sun (left) changes Feedback on in/correct answers From Astronomy Place - website accompanying Cosmic Perspectives - Addison Wesley

19 19 EXAMPLE 2: What Causes the Seasons? Learning reinforced through application to a different situation Exercises allow student to confirm understanding of concept From Astronomy Place - website accompanying Cosmic Perspectives - Addison Wesley

20 20 2: Classroom Activities “I really liked the surface temperature tutorial - actually fun to do the whole thing - I played with the animations and really understood what I was reading. The animations played a great part in my understanding - through manipulation of the planet’s situation and conditions” Pros: Student engagement with material Group learning Instructor gets chance to talk with smaller groups Cons: Less material “covered” Limited to smaller classes? Technology intensive Limited to interactives developed to date

21 21 3: Learning Groups Assigned learning groups of 5-10 students Groups meet in computer lab each week instead of a lecture Each group has an undergraduate TA - “coach” Weekly assignments involve working with online text and interactives

22 22 3: Learning Groups Interactives developed elsewhere - posted by colleagues on web Assignments require students to address specific questions Group answers submitted via web Assignments discussed “Oprah- style” in class where groups defend their answer

23 23 3: Learning Groups Started by Dick McCray 3 other faculty trying variations Funded by Pew Trust, NSF

24 24 3: Learning Groups Pros: Student engagement with material Group learning UG coaches popular Valuable experience for UG coaches Project-based assessment Cons: Less material “covered” Extensive organization of learning groups Discussion sessions depend on style of instructor Maintenance/development of software takes time/funds

25 25 Lessons Learned - 1 Hard - for both students and teachers - to change culture of large lecture classesHard - for both students and teachers - to change culture of large lecture classes HUGE improvements in morale of both students and facultyHUGE improvements in morale of both students and faculty In reality, requires changing classrooms - not just a websiteIn reality, requires changing classrooms - not just a website

26 26 Lessons Learned - 2 Getting Department Buy-In: Senior faculty advocate helpsSenior faculty advocate helps Multiple approachesMultiple approaches not top-down, experiments, sharing results Flexible, modular tools more sustainable than whole courseFlexible, modular tools more sustainable than whole course Encouraging different styles of teachingEncouraging different styles of teaching

27 27 Lessons Learned - 3 What We Don’t Know: Do students learn more? Is this the right question?Do students learn more? Is this the right question? Will the novelty wear off?Will the novelty wear off? How to fund continued development?How to fund continued development? Whither technology?Whither technology?


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