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Teaching Strategies
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Cool Reading to Help You
Cool Reading to Help You
Have a Warm Winter While Preparing for Spring

December, 2007
Brissenden, University of Arizona & Prather, University of Arizona

In our Teaching Excellence Workshops, we mention many articles and books worth reading—or, as we like to tell our students, articles and books "worth knowing"—related to teaching and learning astronomy. We published our first Summer Reading List in 2005, revised it for Summer 2006, and are adding to it again to round out 2007. We're keeping our original recommendations on this list, but we've added a few more. So, in the spirit of winter, put on some warm and fuzzy slippers, curl up in a nice chair, have a mug of hot cocoa, and prepare for Spring with our 2007 Recommended Reading List.

The List: 2007

Development of a Concept Inventory to Assess Students' Understanding and Reasoning Difficulties about the Properties and Formation of Stars (Bailey, 2007): Many instructors of Astro 101 are beginning to try to understand the nature of learning in their courses. The Star Properties Concept Inventory is one tool that instructors can use to gather data to help them understand this.

A Review of Astronomy Education Research (Bailey & Slater, 2003): Before Bailey & Slater, if we wanted to know what previous astronomy education research had been conducted, we would have been searching through dozens of journals. Now we can turn to just this one article for a very nice summary—with more than 100 references

Development and Validation of the Light and Spectroscopy Concept Inventory (Bardar et al., 2006-7): Many instructors of Astro 101 are beginning to try to understand the nature of learning in their courses. The Light & Spectroscopy Concept Inventory is one tool that instructors can use to gather data to help them understand this.

The Need for a Light & Spectroscopy Concept Inventory for Assessing Innovations in Introductory Astronomy Survey Courses (Bardar et al., 2005): Many of us have heard about the Astronomy Diagnostics Test, and some of us have even used it in our courses to measure the learning gains of our students. Learn more about why addition tests, or concept inventories, are needed to measure our students'learning and, more importantly, our instruction.

How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, & School (Bransford et al., 1999): Based on research in science education, cognitive science, psychology, and more, what is it we know about the nature of the learning process of humans (students)? This easy-to-read, and understand, book is a must have. Themes discussed include: memory and the structure of knowledge; and analysis of problem solving.

The Role of Assessment in the Development of the College Introductory Astronomy Course: A "How-To" Guide for Instructors (Brissenden al., 2002): Most of us have heard of assessment, and many of us are even interested in it. But is there more to it than just assigning homework and giving exams? How can we use assessment to let our students know what we think is important before it's too late? How can we use assessment to inform our own instruction? What types of assessments are there? Learn the answers to these questions and more.

Survey of Introductory Astronomy Textbooks: An Update (Bruning, 2006): Bruning continues to provide us a comparison of Astro 101 texts. This installment contains 23 texts, along with descriptions of their ancillary materials—an invaluable resource for anyone picking their first textbook or wanting to make a change.

Interactive-Engagement vs. Traditional Methods: A Six-Thousand-Student Survey of Mechanics Test Data for Introductory Physics Courses (Hake, 1998): No matter how good our lectures may be, if we continue to teach in a lecture-centered, instructor-focused manner, there is only so much our students can learn. To achieve the highest learning gains, we need to adopt learner-centered teaching strategies.

Effectiveness of Collaborative Ranking Tasks on Student Understanding of Key Astronomy Concepts (Hudgins et al., 2006): Learn more about Ranking Tasks how they were developed, and how we know they work.

What We Teach & What Is Learned—Closing the Gap (McDermott, 1991): Is our curriculum getting in our way? Does it help students learn? Does it help us teach? McDermott's Millikan Award lecture discusses the differences between what we are using to teach and what our students need in order to learn.

Students' Pre-Instructional Beliefs and Reasoning Strategies About Astrobiology Concepts (Offerdahl et al., 2003): Astrobiology has become a hot topic, and many of us are now, or will be in the future, teaching courses on this topic, or at least touching on some astrobiology during our semester. This is an excellent resource to arm yourself with before you teach astrobiology next time.

Research on a Lecture-Tutorial Approach to Teaching Introductory Astronomy for Non–Science Majors (Prather et al., 2004): Learn more about Lecture-Tutorials, how they were developed, and how we know they work.

Hints of a Fundamental Misconception in Cosmology (Prather et al., 2003): Learn about what more than 1000 students had to say about the Big Bang.

Implications of Cognitive Studies for Teaching Physics (Redish, 1994): A physicist's view of what we know from cognitive science about student learning with an emphasis on the necessity to treat the "teaching of physics as a scientific problem".

Teaching Strategies Archive

CAE is housed in the Astronomy Dept. at the Univ. of Arizona's Steward Observatory. CAE is funded through the generous contributions of the NASA JPL Exoplanet Exploration Public Engagement Program. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0715517, a CCLI Phase III Grant for the Collaboration of Astronomy Teaching Scholars (CATS). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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