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Session 5 - Education.
Display session, Monday, January 13
In brief: it is possible to have students do experiments in very large lecture classes. Evaluations show it works. Hands-on science, while traditional in many other disciplines, has not played a large role in astronomy teaching, though many of the concepts we deal with such as heat and pressure can be explored with simple experiments. 340 students in a large lecture class did an experiment with drink bottles, ice, warm water, and baggies to explore the dependence of pressure on temperature. They worked together in approximately 100 groups, working through a teaching sequence which included both a classic demonstration done by the instructor and a hands-on activity where they did the experiment themselves. This activity was carried out in a rather challenging setting: a large lecture room with fixed seats and no plumbing. Handling and disposing of the materials was only modestly more challenging than teaching a regular class. Student evaluations and student performance on exam questions demonstrated that the activity was successful.
This research was part of DISCUS (Delaware Innovative Science/Math Collaborative for Undergraduate Success), an initiative supported by the Delaware Department of Public Instruction and the National Science Foundation (DUE-9553787).
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