What’s Your #ASTRO101 Astronomy Teaching Paradigm?

IMG_1974When you want students telling other students about what it is like to be a student in your astronomy class, what do you want them to say?  Do you really want them to say, “that professor was a gatekeeper, and kept me from graduating?”  Do you hope that they will say, “the professor was a great lecturer, but the lectures didn’t help me pass the exams?”  Or, “that class was ridiculously hard: I hated every minute of it.”

I suspect these aren’t the flattering comments that you really want. So, what do you really want them to say about you?  Which metaphor do you want students to use about you as a professor?

Which metaphor do you want students to say about you as a professor?


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Bridge or


Course Evaluation Example Image      Most of us hope that our students say good things about our course both to other students and—more importantly—on our end-of-course evaluations.  When students say positive things about your course to other students, this helps increase your enrollment because students do act upon instructor-recommendations from one another when selecting their courses.  At the same time, when students say positive things about your on your end-of-course evaluations, this helps you get high marks on your performance and promotion reviews.

The bottom line is this—it is definitely worth taking the time and effort to make sure students know that you have created and are following an organized learning plan that supports their learning  AND that you deeply desire for them—all of them—to be successful in your course.

Again, I’d beg you to consider, that a single change in perspective might be all you need to profoundly transform your astronomy course from an experience to be endured by students to one that is life-long transformative for students.  The perspective is this:

What if it was your primary job as the professor to help students love astronomy?

Adopting this alternate perspective dramatically changes our course as something done TO students into something done FOR students.  Let’s again take a quick reality check here: It’s not hard to teach people about astronomy who already love astronomy.  In fact, it might be argued that a professor would have to intentionally try to be unsuccessful at teaching students who already love astronomy.  I contend that nearly anyone could tackle that simple task of teaching those who already think astronomy is cool.

060c645dc59223c8916890261f4004ef      Instead, what I want you to do is to be highly successful at teaching students who enter your classroom already convinced they don’t love astronomy.  If you organize your class for these hard-to-reach students, nearly everyone wins—even those students who enrolled in your class correctly thinking astronomy is awesome.



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