ASP2021: A Virtual Conference
1:55 PM - 2:45 PM: Concurrent Session 11D: 1:55 pm PST (4:55 pm EST) - Oral Presentations
Teaching the Path of the Sun with the Aid of a Planetarium
Conference Strand: Teaching Introductory Astronomy – What are We Doing Now?
Noella Dcruz, Joliet Junior College
Abstract of Session/Presentation: I teach a one-semester long introductory astronomy course at Joliet Junior College, a community college in Illinois. This course is aimed at non-science majors. From Spring 2018 to Fall 2019, I collected and analyzed quiz and test responses from my face-to-face and online students to study how they learn about the daily path of the sun and shadows. I teach face-to-face students these topics using lecture, lecture tutorial, a planetarium presentation, an animation from the University of Nebraska, think-pair-share questions and two online quizzes. Students in some face-to-face classes ended their learning sequence with a small group discussion. Each group predicted the sun's path on a different day of the year, with dates separated by a month to cover as much of a year as possible. I used the planetarium projector to show students how their predicted path compared with the simulated path. To keep students engaged, I asked students two think-pair-share questions after showing them two paths of the sun on the dome. The rest of the face-to-face students did not experience the small group discussion. Online students studied these topics on their own. They completed the same quizzes as the face-to-face students. They also predicted the path of the sun on a particular day of the year in an online discussion. A pre-course survey showed that students had little knowledge of the Sun's daily path, solstices and equinoxes and some knowledge of shadows, but test results showed that they learned a lot. Face-to-face students who experienced the small group discussion performed better on path of the sun test questions than those who did not. Online students scored similarly to those who completed the discussion. Online students had considerable difficulty knowing that the sun is never at zenith in Joliet. Face-to-face students did better on tests questions related to shadows than online students. These results can be used to improve how these topics are taught in the future.