## 20080831

### Astronomy clicker question: moonrise time

Astronomy 210, Fall Semester 2008
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

Students were asked the following clicker question (Classroom Performance System, einstruction.com) at the end of their learning cycle:

What time is it when the waxing crescent moon is rising?
(A) 12 PM (noon).
(B) 3 PM (afternoon).
(C) 6 PM (sunset).
(D) 9 PM (evening).
(E) 12 AM (midnight).
(F) 3 AM (wee hours).
(G) 6 AM (sunrise).
(H) 9 AM (morning).

Section 70160
(A) : 0 students
(B) : 2 students
(C) : 2 students
(D) : 4 students
(E) : 0 students
(F) : 4 students
(G) : 2 students
(H) : 11 students

This question was asked again after displaying the tallied results with the lack of consensus, with the following results. No comments were made by the instructor, in order to see if students were going to be able to discuss and determine the correct answer among themselves.

Section 70160
(A) : 0 students
(B) : 1 student
(C) : 1 student
(D) : 0 students
(E) : 0 students
(F) : 0 students
(G) : 0 students
(H) : 24 students

The waxing crescent moon is highest overhead at 3 PM. Doing the "+/- 6 hour trick" predicts that the moon with this phase will set at 9 PM, and rose at 9 AM.

Pre- to post- peer-interaction gains:
pre-interaction correct = 44%
post-interaction correct = 92%
Hake (normalized) gain <g> = 86%

## 20080830

### "Astronomy in the Marketplace"

"Astronomy in the Marketplace" is first-day-of-class brainstorming activity facilitated by the instructor, developed by Dennis Schatz:
Objectives:
1. To help students see that astronomy has influence outside the scientific arena;
2. to increase their familiarity with astronomical terms; and
3. to develop the students' creative thinking skills
D. Schatz, "Why Should We Care About Exploding Stars?" Universe in the Classroom, no. 8, Spring 1987. (http://www.astrosociety.org/education/publications/tnl/08/stars2.html)

Students are instructed on the rules for brainstorming astronomy-related name brands, and how these will be compiled as a class in a competition between sections of Astronomy 210 at two different campuses (San Luis Obispo, and Paso Robles, CA) at Cuesta College. This activity is done on the first day after a pre-instruction assessment is administered, and a short introduction from the instructor as a warm-up to get students interacting with each other.

Students are motivated to think about astronomy-related name brands as an exercise in seeing how pervasive astronomy is in popular culture. They will be forming small groups of three to four students each to brainstorm as many of these name brands as possible.

The allowed categories for these activities are cars (current and old model names and marques), food items, and non-food items that can be purchased "in the marketplace." Each car is one point, each food item is two points, and non-food items are three points each.

Prohibited categories are titles of TV shows, movies, and books, as typically science-fiction and fantasy franchises are much too prolific (and too easy).

To visually recap the allowed categories, tell students they are given a lot of money to purchase as many different astronomy-related name brand items as possible, starting with a new car from a dealership...

...or maybe a used car from a dealership.

Also imagine yourself cruising up and down the aisles of your supermarket. How many different astronomy-related name-brand items have you seen there? (N.b.: why is the baby in the liquor aisle?!?)

Also perhaps astronomy-related name brand items in the shopping mall as well.

After 10-15 minutes of working in small groups, the instructor will start calling upon students for their astronomy-related name brands. This class list will be compiled and compared to the list from the other section(s) of Astronomy 210 at Cuesta College.

Results from Fall 2008 at Cuesta College:

San Luis Obispo campus (section 70158)
N = 85 students
Cars: 21 items
Food items: 34 items
Non-food items: 32 items
Total score = 21 + 2*34 + 3*32 = 185 points
Score per student = 185/85 = 2.2 points/student

North County (Paso Robles) campus (section 70160)
N = 31 students
Cars: 15 items
Food items: 26 items
Non-food items: 27 items
Total score = 15 + 2*26 + 3*27 = 148 points
Score per student = 148/31 = 4.7 points/student

When these results were reported back to the students at the start of the following class, while SLO campus had the most points overall, NC campus had more points per student.

## 20080829

### Physics clicker question: instantaneous speed vs. magnitude of instantaneous velocity

Physics 205A, Fall Semester 2008
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

Students were asked the following clicker question (Classroom Performance System, einstruction.com) at the middle of their learning cycle, after discussing the distinction between average and instantaneous quantities.

In general, which statement(s) is/are possible?
(A) (Instantaneous) speed > magnitude of (instantaneous) velocity.
(B) (Instantaneous) speed < magnitude of (instantaneous) velocity.
(C) (Instantaneous) speed = magnitude of (instantaneous) velocity.
(D) (More than one of the above choices.)
(E) (I'm lost, and don't know how to answer this.)

Sections 70854, 70855
(A) : 1 student
(B) : 1 student
(C) : 16 students
(D) : 27 students
(E) : 0 students

This question was asked again after displaying the tallied results with the lack of consensus, with the following results. No comments were made by the instructor, in order to see if students were going to be able to discuss and determine the correct answer among themselves.

Sections 70854, 70855
(A) : 0 students
(B) : 0 student
(C) : 25 students
(D) : 20 students
(E) : 0 students

While not an overwhelming number of correct responses, at least an appreciable shift away from (D), which is an incorrect answer, a point brought up in the whole-class discussion after the second pass.

Instantaneous quantities are evaluated in the limit that the elapsed time interval approaches zero. From a previous discussion in class, average speeds can be greater than the magnitude of average velocities when the trajectory between the initial and final positions doubles back and forth on itself, but instantaneous speeds must be the same as the magnitudes of instantaneous velocities, because in the limit that the elapsed time interval approaches zero, there can be only straight-line travel with no "back-and-forth" between initial and final positions.

In the follow-up discussion, a student asked whether instantaneous speeds can still be greater than magnitudes of instantaneous velocities for something very small, say, like molecules. But even though the brownian motion of molecules would jostle it back and forth over small distances, the nature of the time interval for instantaneous quantities means that it should be made sufficiently small enough that there is no "back-and-forth" between initial and final positions.

## 20080828

### Physics clicker question: average velocity vs. instantaneous velocity

Physics 205A, Fall Semester 2008
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

Cf. Giambattista/Richardson/Richardson, Physics, 1/e, Multiple-Choice Questions 2.2-2.3 (extended)

Students were asked the following clicker question (Classroom Performance System, einstruction.com) at the beginning of their learning cycle, after having average velocity and average speed defined, and two quick examples of calculating the average velocity and the average speed for the ball for the t = 0.9 s to t = 1.8 s time interval (v_av = -4.4 m/s, and average speed = 4.4 m/s).

A ball is thrown upwards, and follows the trajectory shown at right. What is the average velocity of the ball for the t = 0 to t = 1.8 s time interval?

(A) –4.4 m/s.
(B) –2.2 m/s.
(C) 0.0 m/s.
(D) +2.2 m/s.
(E) +4.4 m/s.
(F) (I'm lost, and don't know how to answer this.)

Sections 70854, 70855
(A) : 2 students
(B) : 13 students
(C) : 23 students
(D) : 2 students
(E) : 2 students
(F) : 1 student

This question was asked again after displaying the tallied results with the lack of consensus, with the following results. No comments were made by the instructor, in order to see if students were going to be able to discuss and determine the correct answer among themselves.

Sections 70854, 70855
(A) : 5 students
(B) : 6 student
(C) : 31 students
(D) : 0 students
(E) : 2 students
(F) : 0 students

Average velocity is displacement divided by the elapsed time interval. Because the ball is at the same position for both the initial and final locations, then the displacement (the vector that points from initial to final locations) is zero, and thus the average velocity v_av = 0 for the t = 0 to t = 1.8 s time interval! However, average speed is the distance traveled divided by the interval, and is not "fooled" by a trajectory that doubles back on itself as shown here, and this average speed = 4.4 m/s for the same t = 0 to t = 1.8 s time interval.

## 20080827

### Erasing slate: wow!

"Wow!" by Anonymous
August 25, 2008
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

Latest scribbling on the lift-and-erase slate in the hallway, outside the office door.

## 20080826

### Physics clicker question: distance traveled vs. displacement magnitude

Physics 205A, Fall Semester 2008
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

Cf. Giambattista/Richardson/Richardson, Physics, 1/e, Conceptual Question 2.1 (extended)

Students were asked the following clicker question (Classroom Performance System, einstruction.com) at the beginning of their learning cycle:

In general, which statement(s) is/are possible?
(A) Distance traveled > magnitude of displacement.
(B) Distance traveled < magnitude of displacement.
(C) Distance traveled = magnitude of displacement.
(D) (More than one of the above choices.)
(E) (I'm lost, and don't know how to answer this.)

Sections 70854, 70855
(A) : 11 students
(B) : 5 students
(C) : 9 students
(D) : 17 students
(E) : 0 students

This question was asked again after displaying the tallied results with the lack of consensus, with the following results. No comments were made by the instructor, in order to see if students were going to be able to discuss and determine the correct answer among themselves.

Sections 70854, 70855
(A) : 5 students
(B) : 1 student
(C) : 1 student
(D) : 37 students
(E) : 0 students

If an object moves along one dimension such that it does not retrace its path, then the distance traveled from its initial location to its final location is exactly equal to the magnitude of the displacement (the straight-line vector that points from the initial to final location), so choice (C) is possible. However, if an object moves back-and-forth along one dimension, then the distance traveled will be longer than the magnitude of the displacement, so in this case choice (A) is possible. Under no circumstances would (B) be possible. Never. Never? Never-ever-ever!

## 20080824

### First day of clickers: syllabus quiz

A few minutes after picking up their course policy handout, students work on in their first attempt at think-(pair)-share using flashcards in a classwide "syllabus quiz."

Sample questions:
1. If you had one-half of the total points for this course, your grade would be a(n):
(A) "A."
(B) "B."
(C) "C."
(D) "D."
(E) (Cannot be determined yet, as the scale for this class is curved.)
(F) "F."
(G) (I'm lost, and don't know how to answer this.)

2. How many of your lowest (or missed) quizzes are dropped?
(A) 0 (every quiz counts).
(B) 1.
(C) 2.
(D) 3.
(E) (I'm lost, and don't know how to answer this.)

3. Is partial credit possible for multiple-choice questions on quizzes/exams?
(A) Yes.
(B) No.
(C) (I'm lost, and don't know how to answer this.)

4. Is the final exam for this course comprehensive?
(A) Yes.
(B) No.
(C) (I'm lost, and don't know how to answer this.)

5. Are there extra-credit points?
(A) Yes.
(B) No.
(C) (I'm lost, and don't know how to answer this.)
Responses to the first few questions are scattered, resulting in a second think-pair-share pass to reach a consensus. Eventually students become familiarized enough with the course policy handout to answer the last few questions correctly by acclamation, rather than going through the use of flashcards. Mission accomplished.

Bibliography:
G. Brissenden, E. E. Prather, T. F. Slater, "What 'Makes the Grade'? Bridging the Gap Between Instructor and Student Expectations," Center for Astronomy Education Teaching Strategy, October 2006.
"If we want our students to value, and understand the contents of, our syllabus, it is our responsibility to hold the students accountable for the contents in a real way... This is where the Syllabus Quiz comes in... This lets your students know in a very real way to them--their grade--that you are holding them accountable for understanding the syllabus."
P. H. Raymark, P. A. Connor-Greene, "The Syllabus Quiz," Teaching of Psychology, vol. 29, no. 4, pp. 286-288, 2002.
"...it is our experience that many students continue to ask questions throughout the semester about policies and procedures that are clearly addressed in the course syllabus. Not only do students often fail to retain syllabus information; many appear to forget to use the syllabus as a resource for locating this material."
"...the potential benefits of a syllabus quiz are limited to those students who take the quiz seriously and answer the questions correctly. Thus, instructors who are interested in using a syllabus quiz should consider ways that make it more likely that students will take the quiz seriously. For example, an instructor may limit credit to those students who get the entire quiz correct. Or, an instructor may make the syllabus quiz part of the course requirements, rather than extra credit. In summary, a properly administered syllabus quiz can be a creative way to encourage students to read the syllabus, and in doing so, facilitate their orientation to class policies, processes, and procedures."
Previous related posts:

## 20080823

### Education research: think-pair-share flashcards

Astronomy 210 (introductory astronomy) students at Cuesta College answer questions on a syllabus quiz on the first day of class, after being coached on how to use flashcards in a think-(pair)-share methodology (discussed in a previous post).

080820-Think-Share-400.gif
Result of asking the students to think about the question, fold their flashcards, and then to hold them up at the count of three.

080820-Think-Pair-Share-400.gif
Due to the lack of consensus, students were told to find someone else in the class who had a different answer, and to convince that person why they chose their answer (and why they think it is correct). After this second cycle, students apparently reached a consensus.

## 20080822

### FCI pre-test comparison: Cuesta College versus UC-Davis

Students at both Cuesta College (San Luis Obispo, CA) and the University of California at Davis were administered the Force Concept Inventory (Doug Hestenes, et al.) during the first week of instruction.
`     Cuesta College    UC-Davis     Physics 205A      Physics 7B     Fall Semester     Summer Session II     2008              2002N    53 students       76 studentslow   4                 2mean 10.8 +/- 4.9       9.1 +/- 4.3high 24                27`

A "Student" t-test of the null hypothesis results in p = 0.0206, thus there is a significant difference between Cuesta College and UC-Davis FCI pre-test scores.

Apparently this semester at Cuesta College, students are slightly more knowledgeable about the Newtonian physics concepts covered in the FCI as UC-Davis students at the start of introductory college physics, at a statistically significant level.

Later this semester (Fall 2008), a comparison will be made between Cuesta College and UC-Davis FCI post-tests, along with their pre- to post-test gains.

D. Hestenes, M. Wells, and G. Swackhamer, Arizona State University, "Force Concept Inventory," Phys. Teach. 30, 141-158 (1992).
Development of the FCI, a 30-question survey of basic Newtonian mechanics concepts.

Previous FCI results:

## 20080821

### SPCI pre-test comparison: Cuesta College SLO vs. NC campuses

The Star Properties Concept Inventory (SPCI, developed by Janelle Bailey, University of Nevada-Las Vegas) was administered to Astronomy 210 (one-semester introductory astronomy) students at Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA during the first class meeting, at both the main San Luis Obispo campus and the North County campus at Paso Robles.
`     Cuesta College    Cuesta College     Astronomy 210     Astronomy 210     SLO campus        NC campus     Fall Semester     Fall Semester     2008              2008N    85 students       31 studentslow   2                 3mean  6.7 +/- 2.8       7.3 +/- 2.1high 18                13`

A "Student" t-test of the null hypothesis results in p = 0.28, thus there is no significant difference between students at these two Cuesta College campuses. This is the first time a comparison has been done between campuses for the SPCI pre-test.

For earlier results at Cuesta College and further discussion of the SPCI, see previous posts:

## 20080820

### Discovering real and virtual images

080724-1040074
http://www.flickr.com/photos/waiferx/2766109677/

Discovering a real image and a virtual image from a concave mirror. Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, San Diego, CA.

## 20080819

### First day of clickers: introducing think-(pair)-share

Some background from education research, and then a first-day presentation to motivate students on the use of peer instruction in the classroom.

Paul J. Green at Harvard University (2003) explains the importance of clearly outlining the motivation for, and the means of using clickers in the classroom:
"For Peer Instruction, Day One is particularly important. This is when you can set the tone for a relaxed classroom environment where inquiry and participation are encouraged. It is also the best time to make clear that Peer Instruction is not a free-for-all. During the first several classes, lay out clearly what you expect from the students, and how they will be evaluated..."
Amy Forestell at the University of Texas (2008) outlines an exemplary think-(pair)-share procedure:
"Present question to students. Ask students to 'think' individually about the question for "x" seconds or minutes. Say, 'Here's a question that we will vote on' or simply, 'Question.' Don't go into a lengthy introduction or description. Don’t read the question aloud. Read it to yourself slowly as if you were a student reading it for the first time and had to answer it... When you are finished you should have a sense that most students are done and getting their cards ready to vote. Say, 'How many people need more time?' Don't say something like 'Everyone done?' because you don't get good feedback from that. If many students actually need more time they will let you know.
"Have students anonymously provide their answer to the question simultaneously as a class. When most students are ready say, 'Vote on the count of three. One, two, three, vote...'
"Decide if students should 'share' their answers with each other. This is the case when about 50% of the students are correct. If more than [about] 80% of students are correct, there is no need to discuss the question further. If fewer than 50% of students are incorrect, there isn't a critical mass for fruitful discussion... If between 50% and 80% of the students got it right...tell the students, 'Find a person who has a different answer than yours and convince them that you are right. You have [time limit] minutes.' You may remind them that this might require getting up and moving around the room. After they have had enough time (not necessarily the time you said) tell them to stop. To get their attention you may have a happy place in the room you return to, flash the lights, or ring a bell. Say it is time to vote again. Vote as above: 'One, two, three, vote.' Share the results with your students."
Neil Lasry, at John Abbott College, Quebec (2008) finds that:
"...whereas flashcards require taking class-time to tabulate responses or estimate answer distributions, clickers allow instructors to automatically get precise real-time student feedback. ...From a learning perspective, using PI [Peer Instruction] with clickers does not provide any significant learning advantage over low-tech flashcards."
At Cuesta College in fall semester 2008, Astronomy 210 (introductory astronomy) students will be trained to use flashcards on the first day of class, but will use clickers for the remainder of the semester, primarily as a means to gain useful statistics on student responses. Links to the full-size front and backs of these cards (to be folded over by the students and held under their chin to respond) are posted below:

The following first-day presentation introduces students to the motivation of, and use of clickers (and in the interim, simple flashcards) in the classroom.

A contrast is made between the traditional passive mode of learning, where the focus of the students is on the instructor...

...with an active mode of learning, where the focus of the instructor, as well as the rest of the classroom, is on the students themselves.

How will this happen? Better than asking for a show of hands is to get students to commit to their answers using flashcards. (N.b.: Ed Prather at the University of Arizona recommends taking digital photos (or at least, pretending to) of the classroom after students show their flashcards as a conceit of getting students to fully participate. Ex: "Hold your flashcards up! Keep them up! I have to take a photo of this...because this is neat! It's important to me!")

Electronic response systems (clickers) will be used to compile answers such that the instructor and students can gauge how the class as a whole is doing.

The method (as detailed above by Amy Forestell) is think-(pair)-share, where a question is posed, students think about it (without discussion), and then share their answers using flashcards or clickers. If there needs to be a follow-up, then students are highly encouraged (forced) to share and defend their answers with a student who responded differently, and then share their answers again, hopefully with a shift towards a more correct answer.

Flashcards will be used to initially train students in the think-(pair)-share methodology.

Then as students purchase and register their clickers, then they will be used to respond to think-(pair)-share questions. Students receive credit no matter how they respond, but they must be present in class and respond to more than half of the questions in order to receive full participation credit for that day.

...with the active (read: more exciting) nature of an interactive classroom.

Questions, anyone? (This presentation is then immediately followed-up by a syllabus quiz using think-(pair)-share.)

Bibliography:

## 20080818

### "Credo ut intelligam."

"Credo ut intelligam (I believe so that I may understand)."
--St. Anselm of Canterbury
This 2008-2009 academic year for Astr 210 (introductory astronomy) at Cuesta College is "The Year of Best Practices," where only instructional methods thoroughly researched and recommended by education research will be embraced and put into practice. Even though these may be techniques that are not obviously credulous nor easily implemented; nonetheless every effort will be made to put them into effect.

Since electronic response systems (clickers) will be extensively implemented according to the latest findings from education research, this year could also be subtitled, "The Year I Stopped Worrying And Learned To Love Clickers." Watch this blog for updates as the semester progresses.

## 20080817

### Erasing slate: once upon a time...

"Once Upon A Time..." by Anonymous
Summer Break 2008
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

Latest scribbling on the lift-and-erase slate in the hallway, outside the office door. Appropriately enough, just before the start of fall semester.

## 20080816

### Stop, look, wave

080803-1040633
http://www.flickr.com/photos/waiferx/2743852851/

Stop, look...and don't forget to wave, kids! Crosswalk, San Bruno, CA.

## 20080815

### Found physics: dapples of sunlight

080731-1040621
http://www.flickr.com/photos/waiferx/2721860968/