AAS 196th Meeting, June 2000
Session 18. Astronomy Education Research
Special Session Oral, Monday, June 5, 2000, 2:00-3:30pm, Highland B/J

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[18.02] Using Observational Journals in an Introductory Astronomy Course

P. Sadler (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

The might of science is in its power to predict. Yet, students rarely are exposed to anything but others' stories concerning how nature behaves. Students do not experience the frustration and elation that discovery brings.

For ten years, our introductory astronomy course has used observational journals as a key component in the learning process. Every night, as the planets, stars, and moon dance by, astronomy students use the opportunity to collect and analyze their own data describing heavenly motions. For most, finding the patterns in original data provides an opportunity to fashion and test their own predictive models for the first time in their lives. Such efforts provide an alternative to lecture and laboratory for mastering key scientific concepts and modifying student misconceptions.

Students have learned how to represent visual information through a variety of graphs, built and improved their own measurement instruments, and drawn on artistic and writing skills. We will examine the steps required to make observational journals a productive learning activity: careful recordkeeping, classroom discussion, instructor feedback, and reflective writing. I will show examples of how students' work progress through increasing levels of cognitive sophistication that match well with learning theories.

If you would like more information about this abstract, please follow the link to http://pluto.harvard.edu/cfa/sed/index.html. This link was provided by the author. When you follow it, you will leave the Web site for this meeting; to return, you should use the Back comand on your browser.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: pasdler@cfa.harvard.eduO

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