|Abstract||For decades, the effectiveness of the planetarium as a teaching tool has been investigated without a clear answer. As teaching paradigms have shifted, the usefulness and roles of planetaria must be made clearer if instructors are to make the best use of this expensive and unique tool. We propose to teach one week of discussion sections in each of the three Astronomy 103 classes using permutations of PowerPoint presentations and instructor- and student-centered demonstrations in the classroom or planetarium with the same learning goals; these are normal educational practices for this course. We will teach the students about the motion of the sun and stars in the sky, a central learning goal for any introductory Astronomy college class and a topic that is very appropriate for the planetarium. Our central research question: Does student learning in an introductory astronomy classroom change with the use of different teaching methods/tools, in particular, the planetarium? The effectiveness of varied approaches will be tested by giving students pre- and post-tests to gauge what they learned from the lecture and demonstrations - all normal educational practices to improve classroom teaching and student learning.
The specific aims of this study are to: 1) Expose students to different teaching approaches; 2) Analyze student learning using pre- and post-tests; 3) Use this analysis to revise the afore-mentioned instructional approaches; 4) Prepare a manuscript for peer review, or a presentation of data for disciplinary meetings, based on our analysis, that details these instructional approaches and their benefits for student learning. |