20160518

Online reading assignment question: advice to future students

Astronomy 210, spring semester 2016
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

Students have a weekly online reading assignment (hosted by SurveyMonkey.com), where they answer questions based on reading their textbook, material covered in previous lectures, opinion questions, and/or asking (anonymous) questions or making (anonymous) comments. Full credit is given for completing the online reading assignment before next week's lecture, regardless if whether their answers are correct/incorrect. The following question was asked after the last lecture, but prior to the final exam.

Tell a student who is about to take this course next semester what he/she needs to know or to do in order to succeed in this course. (Graded for completion.)
"Always be sure to go to class--even if you miss a day you end up missing so much information. As much as it may not seam like it the weekly reading assignment points really do add up. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Be sure to preview slide shows before class. And again...go to class."

"For the love of God read the textbook!"

"Read the book! Study for the quizzes!"

"Make sure to study and do the online reading assignments, they will benefit you a ton."

"I would DEFINITELY recommend when studying the test study right of the past quizzes and off of the book. FORGET WIKIPEDIA!"

"That P-dog does an excellent job in bringing high level science and math down to a level that a person like myself can comprehend."

"Come to class!!! Do your reading assignments!"

"Do the flashcard packets and get them checked. Read. Go to class."

"I would definitely keep up with the readings and take notes weekly! Always do your flashcard questions because those help so much! As long as you figure out how to study for this class it isn't as hard as it seems initially. "

"Do the reading and just keep up with the content because it can get difficult to make a recovery."

"Do all of the online reading assignments, do the flashcards, and come to class!"

"Always do the online reading assignments. ALWAYS!"

"Keep up with the online assignments and don't skip class."

"If you go to office hours and show you're putting forth an effort and actually care then you will do well."

"Read the online presentations and textbook! They'll be your friends, like when you need help/advice on something you don't understand lol"

"To be patient with the course. You may feel like you are not doing good at first and that the class is really hard, but with time you get used to the layout and the points add up quickly. "

"Do all the reading assignments and study the quizzes for the midterms, it really helped me!"

"Study for those damn quizzes "

"Make sure to do the homework and study for quizzes."

"You should not take the lab and class back to back, just go to class and you should be fine."

"Read the book before class!"

"Do all of the previous semesters' archived quizzes and midterms."

"To succeed in the course, you should probably read the textbook a lot and pay attention in class even though the class is long."

"Always go to the study sessions of class before you take your exam."

"Do all the homework and don't forget about it."

Education research: SPCI statistics (spring semester 2016)

Students at Cuesta College (San Luis Obispo, CA) were administered the Star Properties Concept Inventory (SPCI version 3.0, developed by Janelle Bailey, University of Nevada-Las Vegas) during the first and the last week of instruction. Astronomy 210 is a one-semester introductory general science course, with a separate optional adjunct laboratory (Astronomy 210L).

The pre- to post-test gain for this semester at Cuesta College (excluding students with negative informed consent forms (*.pdf), and missing pre- or post-tests) is:

Astronomy 210 spring semester 2016 sections 30674, 30676
N = 59 (matched-pairs)
<initial%>= 32% ± 15%
<final%>= 54 ± 14%
<g>= 0.32 ± 0.14 (matched-pairs); 0.33 (class-wise)

This semester's SPCI pre- and post-instruction scores are comparable to results from previous semesters at Cuesta College.

20160513

Physics quiz archive: radioactive decay, Feynman diagrams

Physics 205B Quiz 7, spring semester 2016
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA
Sections 30882, 30883, version 1
Exam code: quiz07eYE5



Sections 30882, 30883 results
0- 6 :   * [low = 6]
7-12 :   ***
13-18 :   **************
19-24 :   **************** [mean = 20.2 +/- 5.5]
25-30 :   ****** [high = 30]

Astronomy current events question: "Manx" comet C/2014 S3

Astronomy 210L, spring semester 2016
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

Students are assigned to read online articles on current astronomy events, and take a short current events quiz during the first 10 minutes of lab. (This motivates students to show up promptly to lab, as the time cut-off for the quiz is strictly enforced!)
Karen Meech and Roy Gal, "Back from the Deep Freeze: A Piece of the Early Solar System Returns" (April 29, 2016)
ifa.hawaii.edu/info/press-releases/manx_comets/
Based on analysis of its spectrum and its lack of tail, comet C/2014 S3 may be a long-frozen remnant of material from:
(A) a nearby supernova remnant.
(B) the sun's red dwarf companion.
(C) Saturn's rings.
(D) the early inner solar system.
(E) solar wind filaments.

Correct answer: (D)

Student responses
Section 30680
(A) : 2 students
(B) : 0 students
(C) : 3 students
(D) : 7 students
(E) : 1 student

Astronomy current events question: multiple galaxies hidden within hot glowing dust

Astronomy 210L, spring semester 2016
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

Students are assigned to read online articles on current astronomy events, and take a short current events quiz during the first 10 minutes of lab. (This motivates students to show up promptly to lab, as the time cut-off for the quiz is strictly enforced!)
Jacqui Bealing, "Bright Dusty Galaxies are Hiding Secret Companions" (May 6, 2016)
sussex.ac.uk/broadcast/read/35494
Based on __________, several hidden galaxies may be responsible for the glowing dust surrounding a bright galaxy.
(A) statistical methods.
(B) x-ray beams.
(C) ultraviolet observations.
(D) radar reflections.
(E) gravitational waves.

Correct answer: (A)

Student responses
Sections 30678, 30679, 30680
(A) : 3 students
(B) : 0 students
(C) : 4 students
(D) : 3 students
(E) : 3 students

Astronomy current events question: TRAPPIST discovery of three habitable zone exoplanets

Astronomy 210L, spring semester 2016
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

Students are assigned to read online articles on current astronomy events, and take a short current events quiz during the first 10 minutes of lab. (This motivates students to show up promptly to lab, as the time cut-off for the quiz is strictly enforced!)
Michaƫl Gillon, "Life Elsewhere in the Universe? A New Nearby Planetary System Could Bring Soon the Answer..." (May 2, 2016)
ulg.ac.be/cms/c_7453882/en/life-elsewhere-in-the-universe-a-new-nearby-planetary-system-could-bring-soon-the-answer
The TRAPPIST robotic telescope discovered three habitable zone exoplanets as they __________ their ultra-cool dwarf star.
(A) gravitationally pulled.
(B) broke away from.
(C) collided with.
(D) passed in front of.
(E) reflected light from.

Correct answer: (D)

Student responses
Section 30680
(A) : 0 students
(B) : 5 students
(C) : 0 students
(D) : 4 students
(E) : 4 students

20160512

Astronomy quiz archive: Milky Way, cosmology

Astronomy 210 Quiz 7, spring semester 2016
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

Section 30674, version 1
Exam code: quiz07N4rK


Section 30674
0- 8.0 :   * [low = 8.0]
8.5-16.0 :   *****
16.5-24.0 :   ******** [mean = 19.1 +/- 6.1]
24.5-32.0 :  
32.5-40.0 :   ** [high = 33.0]


Section 30676, version 1
Exam code: quiz07SrRy


Section 30676
0- 8.0 :   ***** [low = 0.0]
8.5-16.0 :   ************
16.5-24.0 :   *************** [mean = 20.7 +/- 9.0]
24.5-32.0 :   ***********
32.5-40.0 :   ******* [high = 36.5]

20160511

Online reading assignment: origin of life, are we alone? (SLO campus)

Astronomy 210, spring semester 2016
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

Students have a weekly online reading assignment (hosted by SurveyMonkey.com), where they answer questions based on reading their textbook, material covered in previous lectures, opinion questions, and/or asking (anonymous) questions or making (anonymous) comments. Full credit is given for completing the online reading assignment before next week's lecture, regardless if whether their answers are correct/incorrect. Selected results/questions/comments are addressed by the instructor at the start of the following lecture.

The following questions were asked on reading textbook chapters and previewing presentations on the origin of life, a "Here Is Today" timeline, LEGO® washing tips and the extraterrestrial hypothesis.

Selected/edited responses are given below.

Describe something you found interesting from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally interesting for you.
"Seeing Julia Child in the presentation, this was interesting to me because I never knew she used that kind of technology to cook."

"That shocking representation of how little time we as humans have actually been on Earth. I also found the idea of goldilocks planets interesting because it means potential for finding other life sources out there."

"That 'Here is Today' timeline kind of blew my mind."

"The LEGO® bricks, I never thought something like that could be possible. The more you know I guess."

"The Drake equation was particularly interesting to me. Although we don't have the measurements of all the factors it still reveals a lot about our place in the universe."

Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"I'm still a little confused on the Drake equation. What's the point of making an equation where you can't possibly know so many of the factors?"

"Something I found confusing was what is defined as living on a different plant, should bacteria count as an alien?"

"I was really confused by the LEGO® article. Is it about washing LEGO® bricks in socks and they will form structures?"

"I don't see why the government doesn't provide funding if it costs so little. It doesn't seem too controversial. The most they can say is that it's insignificant but it also requires insignificant funding."

"I guess how is it that atheists only reply on science to explain how simple chemicals become complex chemicals. I'm not religious but it's interesting to watch atheists try and answer all of these questions."

Briefly describe a difference between life and non-living things.
"Something that is living often requires some sort of resource(s) to maintain itself."

"Living things take in energy and non-living things don't"

"Non-living things do not exhibit any characteristics of life. They do not grow, respire, need energy, move, reproduce, evolve, or maintain homeostasis."

"Something that is living will reproduce in some way and start another generation and non-living things do not."

"The transmission of information from one molecule to another!"

"Life has living cells and they can reproduce. Non-living things can have chemical reactions."

"Non-living things are dead and living things are alive."

How important is it to you to know whether or not there may be life elsewhere other than on Earth?
Unimportant.  [0]
Of little importance.  **** [4]
Somewhat important.  ***** [10]
Important.  ********* [9]
Very important.  ** [2]

Briefly explain your answer regarding the importance of knowing whether there may be life elsewhere other than on Earth.
"Even if there is other life out there, I doubt it will have much of an effect on us. Unless they figured out how to travel space faster than we ever though possible."

"It's important because the more we know about other planets, the more we know about how we became a part of this world."

"I'm extremely curious to know whether or not there is life on other planets, but I don't believe that knowing would have a huge impact on my life; or rather, that I would benefit from knowing."

"I feel like the universe is so huge and that if life was able to develop on earth there could be a chance that life is elsewhere. I feel like its ignorant to think that we are the only living beings out there."

"Searching for life in other parts of the universe is also a way of answering questions about ourselves. Where did we come from? Why are we here?"

"Because humans suck and I want to marry a Kryptonian."

Which type of star would be least likely to have a planet that could support life?
Massive.  *********** [11]
Medium-mass.  *** [3]
Low-mass (red dwarf).  ********* [9]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)  ** [2]

Briefly explain your answer to the previous question (type of star least likely to have a planet that could support life).
"A massive star would die young and have harsh conditions, and be less likely to have time to be able to support life."

"I think it would be the low-mass stars because they take so long to burn out and they're hotter? But I could be wrong."

"A low-mass star is very cold and would be hard to heat a planet enough for life to form."

"Massive stars have a short lifespan."

"Low-mass star, because it would be cold and wouldn't support life."

"I think a low mass star is the least likely to host life-harboring planets because they are very small and cool relative to other stars. In order for a planet to be in the habitable zone of a low mass star, it would have to be incredibly close to the star, to the point of dangerously close, something that seems rather unlikely."

Describe what the Drake equation is used for.
"The Drake equation is used for calculating how likely it is for a civilization to arise in a galaxy."

"To find out how many planets in the Milky Way could sustain life."

"Used to arrive at an estimate of the number of active, communicative extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy."

"It is used to find the number of advanced technological civilization in the Milky Way."

"Other life."

In your opinion, how plausible is it that the Chilbolton message is a reply from extraterrestrials?
Implausible. ***  [3]
Not very plausible. **************  [14]
Somewhat plausible. ******  [6]
Very plausible.  [0]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!) **  [2]

Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"Do you believe we are the only life in the universe?"

"What is your opinion on the Chilbolton message?"

"If we sent the Chilbolton message 30 years ago to a system thousands of light years away, why do people expect the reply to have arrived so quickly?"

"What are you and Mrs. P-Dog doing over summer break?" (This. #heretodaygonetomaui #thelifeofthelandisperpetuatedinrighteousness)

20160510

Online reading assignment: origin of life, are we alone? (NC campus)

Astronomy 210, spring semester 2016
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

Students have a weekly online reading assignment (hosted by SurveyMonkey.com), where they answer questions based on reading their textbook, material covered in previous lectures, opinion questions, and/or asking (anonymous) questions or making (anonymous) comments. Full credit is given for completing the online reading assignment before next week's lecture, regardless if whether their answers are correct/incorrect. Selected results/questions/comments are addressed by the instructor at the start of the following lecture.

The following questions were asked on reading textbook chapters and previewing presentations on the origin of life, a "Here Is Today" timeline, LEGO® washing tips and the extraterrestrial hypothesis.


Selected/edited responses are given below.

Describe something you found interesting from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally interesting for you.
"Wondering if life may exist somewhere else."

"Here Is Today."

"Primordial soup. I just want to know how it all started and the soup is a start."

"How little time we've existed...but have managed to do so much harm."

"The possibility of extra-terrestrial life, I've always wondered if aliens existed."

Describe something you found confusing from the assigned textbook reading or presentation preview, and explain why this was personally confusing for you.
"The Drake equation was a little confusing to me."

"How do we find life on other planets?"

"Nothing was really all that confusing."

Briefly describe a difference between life and non-living things.
"Life is the process that a living thing goes through. Non-living things don't go through that process."

"Life is something that drinks water and non-living things don't drink water"

"Non-living things don't require oxygen to live."

"Living things grow and reproduce."

How important is it to you to know whether or not there may be life elsewhere other than on Earth?
Unimportant.  ** [2]
Of little importance.  *** [3]
Somewhat important.  ** [2]
Important.  ** [2]
Very important.  ** [2]

Briefly explain your answer regarding the importance of knowing whether there may be life elsewhere other than on Earth.
"If there is life on other planets it would be a huge discovery and allow us to further understand our universe."

"If there is life on other planets it would be cool to know but nothing we could do about it."

"It'd be interesting to know, but I highly doubt there's anything "living" out there, and just "life" out there doesn't really affect me."

"Unfortunately, my answer will label me as a closed-minded individual. Because I am a Christian, and have spent many years studying the Bible to answers for life, I just don't see this as viable... I do believe the big bang is plausible, because I have read Genesis... Due to my biblical research, I don't believe there is life on other planets; therefore, it is of no importance to me... Finally, in a time where conventional wisdom and knowledge seems to be transitioning, the Bible (the true source of knowledge and wisdom) remains the same. According to our textbook and it's definition of life and the scientific research the probability of life on other planets, the evidence points to little possibility of life on other planets."

"I just think it'd be nice not to wonder anymore, and just know if there is other forms of life out there or not."

"I just really want to see an 'alien.'"

Which type of star would be least likely to have a planet that could support life?
Massive.  ***** [5]
Medium-mass.  [0]
Low-mass (red dwarf).  ** [2]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)  **** [4]

Briefly explain your answer to the previous question (type of star least likely to have a planet that could support life).
"The massive star wouldn't be around long enough for life to begin."

"Low-mass because it would be cold and wouldn't support life."

"Confused."

"I think it would be a massive star, because its short lifespan would create harsh conditions."

"I want to say low-mass but I'm really not too sure. In fact, I'm probably wrong. But that is what I am going with."

Describe what the Drake equation is used for.
"It helps us consider the possibility of life other than Earth."

"For estimating the number of advanced technological civilizations in the Milky Way."

"It's used to make new Drake songs so we can enjoy them."

In your opinion, how plausible is it that the Chilbolton message is a reply from extraterrestrials?
Implausible.  ** [2]
Not very plausible.  ***** [5]
Somewhat plausible.  **** [4]
Very plausible.  [0]
(Unsure/guessing/lost/help!)  [0]

Ask the instructor an anonymous question, or make a comment. Selected questions/comments may be discussed in class.
"What is your opinion on the Chilbolton message?"

"Do YOU believe there are "living" beings out there? What's your favorite alien movie? Independence Day, Men In Black, Signs, Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy? Any of the many others?" (Meh, meh, no, yes, yes.)

"Do you believe there are other forms of life somewhere out there?"

20160509

Workshop: "Writing Weekly Current Events Quiz Questions" (2016 Astronomy Teaching Summit Conference)

Workshop presented at the 2016 Astronomy Teaching Summit Conference, August 1-3, 2016, at the City College of San Francisco-North Beach China Town Campus, San Francisco, CA.

Abstract: Students can be motivated to keep abreast of recent discoveries and developments in astronomy, and become aware of ongoing daily, monthly, and seasonal celestial cycles. This requires the instructor to nimbly find articles, construct questions, and grade current events quizzes on a weekly basis. Certain online resources readily provide materials for writing these weekly current events quizzes.

Outcomes: Workshop participants will learn how to find online articles, construct robust reading comprehension questions appropriate for introductory astronomy students, and efficiently grade quizzes for formative assessment to guide further class discussion on a regular weekly schedule.

(This presentation, sample astronomy current events questions and more information is posted at: tinyurl.com/weeklycurrenteventsquizzes.)