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Session 5 - Education.
Display session, Monday, January 15
North Banquet Hall, Convention Center
This paper reports the successful introduction of a current research problem into the astronomy curriculum for non-science majors. This investigation had two objectives. First, I sought to find out how best to use active, group-oriented learning techniques with large groups of students. Second, I sought to determine whether the involvement of nonscience students in an ongoing research problem would work as a teaching technique. Would it lead to meaningful student interest in the research process? Would students understand what research was as a result?
The research in question was an EUVE spectroscopic investigation of some ultrasoft EUV sources detected in the EUVE sky survey in 1992. They are interesting because of the possibility that they may be nearby, thermally emitting neutron stars. EUVE spectra of four bright candidates taken in the summer of 1995 revealed no flux. Either these sources are not real or they are very strange objects whose EUVE flux changes by a factor of 10 in a few years. What should be done next to determine what they are? Students were presented with this dilemma and asked to choose between alternative answers (and justify their choice) or pick an answer of their own.
I present samples of student responses, their evaluations of the exercise, and their performance on follow-up exams. The data show that the exercise was well-conducted and worthwhile. I thank many of my 330 students for thoughtful, creative contributions and NASA's EUVE Guest Investigator program (NAG 5-2365), the Delaware Department of Public Instruction, and the National Science Foundation for financial support.
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