Getting Students Involved in Physics & Astronomy!

One of the most challenging aspects of teaching introductory science courses is that many students, expecting to be spoon-fed "the facts", fail to think critically and begin to lose interest. For too many, science seems like some imperturbable monument built by dowdy and eccentric geniuses. Instead of seeing the satisfaction of challenging one's own preconceptions to arrive at a deeper understanding, students are often numbed by the blizzard of laws, rules and facts. The social, collaborative adventure of science is masked.

How can we present science as an evolving endeavor of human curiosity?

To compound the problem, instructors, after years of training in the field, can have trouble empathizing. Quite understandably, they may focus on the topics they perceive to be the most 1) interesting, or 2) daunting, be it from their own experiences years ago, or simply from last year's class. Unfortunately, this year's class may immediately grasp subjects the instructor belabors, or be overwhelmed by ideas assumed to be obvious. The end result is that students lose interest or get lost.

How can we achieve better real-time, adaptive interaction between instructors and students?

Competitive environments, particularly for undergraduates, may mean that until exam time, many have no measure of how well they know the material, or where they stand relative to their peers. Students, particularly those who find few role models around them or at the front of the class, may become intimidated. For them, this is their last science class.

How can we insure that every student has a personal contribution to the process ?

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Phone is (617)495-7057 and FAX (617)495-7356, at the
Center for Astrophysics,
60 Garden St., Cambridge MA 02138