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Paper: Teaching the Daily Path of the Sun with the Aid of a Planetarium
Volume: 533, ASP 2021: Sharing Best Practices – AstronomyTeaching and Public Engagement
Page: 238
Authors: Dcruz, N. L.
Abstract: From Spring 2018 to Fall 2019, I examined how introductory astronomy students at Joliet Junior College learned about (a) the daily path of the sun, and (b) the change in length and direction of the shadow cast by a flagpole planted vertically in the ground due to the sun's motion in the sky each day. Face-to-face students learned these topics with the help of the textbook, lecture, lecture tutorial, the “Sun at noon” animation from the Astronomy Education at University of Nebraska-Lincoln website, a planetarium presentation of paths of the sun on different days, a small group discussion and think-pair-share questions. The group discussion asked different groups to predict the path of the sun on different days. I used the planetarium projector to show students how their predictions compared to the actual paths of the sun on the dome. Some face-to-face students did not experience the group discussion. I studied three groups of students: face-to-face students who did the discussion, face-to-face students who did not do the discussion, and online students. A pre-course survey revealed that students had little knowledge of path of the sun concepts, and some knowledge of shadows. Test responses from over 300 students showed that (i) Students' knowledge of these topics increased at least 110% for path of the sun concepts and at least 35% for shadow concepts compared to the start of the term. (ii) Face-to-face students who completed the group discussion fared marginally better on all path of the sun and shadow concepts than those who did not. Hence, the group discussion is worth using in the future. (iii) Online students had difficulty learning that the sun is never at zenith in Joliet. (iv) For other path of the sun concepts, online students' performance was comparable to but not correlated with the performance of either group of face-to-face students. (v) Face-to-face students fared better than online students on shadow concepts. Feedback from students in face-to-face classes indicated that the planetarium presentation was the most helpful when learning about the path of the sun, while the planetarium presentation, lecture and think-pair-share questions were most helpful when learning about shadows.
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