FIVE things you need to teach #ASTRO101 this year

Tim Slater, Senior Scientist, CAPER Center for Astronomy & Physics Education Research


This is a great time to be teaching introductory astronomy. ThTop Five List Iconere 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.



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.



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.


FOUR:  CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES. You need a collection of collaborative group activities to use during class-time to interrupt your lecture and improve student learning.





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.






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