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Paper: Using the Big Ideas in Cosmology to Teach College Students
Volume: 473, Communicating Science
Page: 109
Authors: McLin, K. M.; Coble, K.; Metevier, A. J.; Bailey, J. M.; Cominsky, L. R.
Abstract: Recent advances in our understanding of the Universe have revolutionized our view of its structure, composition and evolution. However, these new ideas have not necessarily been used to improve the teaching of introductory astronomy students. In this project, we have conducted research into student understanding of cosmological ideas so as to develop effective web-based tools to teach basic concepts important to modern cosmology. The tools are intended for use at the introductory college level. Our research uses several instruments, including open-ended and multiple choice surveys conducted at multiple institutions, as well as interviews and course artifacts at one institution, to ascertain what students know regarding modern cosmological ideas, what common misunderstandings and misconceptions they entertain, and what sorts of materials can most effectively overcome students' difficulty in learning this material. These data are being used to create a suite of interactive, web-based tutorials that address the major ideas in cosmology. One common misconception that students in our introductory courses possess is that scientific explanations are “made up,” and not supported by observational data. Having students engage with real data is a powerful means to help students overcome this misconception. For this reason, the tutorials we are developing include authentic student interaction with actual data where possible. Students master the scientific concepts and reasoning processes that lead to our current understanding of the Universe through interactive tasks, prediction, reflection, experimentation, and model building. This workshop will demonstrate the use of some of the modules we have created and will allow participants to test the modules for themselves.
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