Tim Slater, Senior Scientist, CAPER Center for Astronomy & Physics Education Research
This is a great time to be teaching introductory astronomy. There are an overwhelming number of astronomy and planetary sciences teaching resources available to professors and teachers. To help you navigate this astronomically large universe of astronomy teaching resources, we provide our TOP FIVE list of ready-to-use, high-quality, FREE ASTRONOMY TEACHING MATERIALS as a starting place.
ONE: IMAGE LIBRARY. You need a readily available source of high quality astronomy and planetary science images and explanation to share with your students.
- BEST STARTING PLACE: –> Astronomy Picture of the Day “Editor’s Picks” APOD has most comprehensive image library of excellent pictures with readily intelligible descriptions available. Many of these fantastic pictures are subject to copyright, so they don’t often appear in course textbooks, but they can be shown to your students. The APOD Index page provides links to what the editors consider the “best” pictures, but if you want more, there is a giant library available if you use the SEARCH function. http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/lib/aptree.html
TWO: CLASSROOM QUESTIONS. You need a source of classroom-ready questions to pose to your students to start discussion and to give them feedback on their developing understanding.
- BEST STARTING PLACE: —>ClassAction Think-Pair-Share Questions ClassAction is the first stop for obtaining classroom-ready, think-pair-share voting questions – also known as PeerInstruction and clicker questions – because many of these include attention capturing images as well as available “hints” and “simulations” you can use to help students develop deeper understandings of tough astronomical concepts. http://astro.unl.edu/classaction/questionsList.html
THREE: GRADING SYSTEM. You need a homework assignment strategy to help students engage with astronomy concepts outside of class time.
- BEST STARTING PLACE: –> High Performance Grading System If you’re not using an online, automatic homework grading system such as Sapling Learning, WebAssign, or MasteringAstronomy, among many, you need a grading strategy that allows you to assign students homework tasks but not overwhelm you with grading. An easy to implement “High Performance Grading System” dramatically reduces grading time by giving students’ feedback by assigning students with a grade of: 0-no meaningful effort; 1-errors worth discussing with instructor; or 2-few substantive errors. http://astronomy101.jpl.nasa.gov/teachingstrategies/teachingdetails/?StrategyID=3
FOUR: CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES. You need a collection of collaborative group activities to use during class-time to interrupt your lecture and improve student learning.
- BEST STARTING PLACE: –> Lecture-Tutorials Classrooms-dominated by professor-centered lecture do not give students sufficient chances to mentally wrestle and internalize with a new concept. An easy-to-adopt approach to implementing classroom activities in the lecture-hall, no matter how large are known as Lecture-Tutorials. A short explanation for how to use Lecture-Tutorials is available online from SERC:
- —SERC http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/teaching_methods/lecture_tutorials/how.html
- —ASTRONOMY Materials: http://www.astro.washington.edu/users/anamunn/Astro500/tutorials_astro101.html
- —PLANETARY SCIENCE Materials: http://faculty.ccri.edu/kkortz/lt.shtml#Planetary
FIVE: TEST-QUESTION LIBRARY. You need a giant test-bank of well-written, multiple-choice questions either for creating exams or for students to use in studying material.
- BEST STARTING PLACE: –> MZ Online Test-Bank Although most textbook companies provide banks of questions that roughly align with their books, sometimes these questions vary widely in their quality. Michael Zeilik has posted more than 700 multiple-choice questions online that can be used “as is” or work great as starter questions to create your own. WEB LINK: http://www.astro.umn.edu/courses/1001/prevsem/fall03/exams/zeilk_tests/ast1031.tests.html