Essays On Eclipses, Transits And Occultations As Teaching Tools In The Introductory Astronomy College Course
We occasionally include projects in our learner-centered introductory astronomy college course to enable non-science major students explore some astronomical concepts in more detail than otherwise. Such projects also highlight ongoing or upcoming astronomical events. We hope that students will feel more interested in astronomy through projects tied to astronomical events. In Spring 2012, we offered short essays focused on eclipses, transits and occultations to promote the rare transit of Venus that occurred on June 5th, 2012. We asked students to write two short essays from three that were offered. The essays contained descriptive and conceptual parts. They were meant to serve as teaching tools. 62% of 106 essays from 55 students earned A, B or C grades. 21% of 47 feedback survey respondents felt the essays increased their interest in astronomy. 49% of respondents felt that the essays were not educationally beneficial and should not be offered again. The most common written response to our survey indicated that students need more guidance and better preparation in writing successful essays. Since students found the conceptual parts of the essays difficult, in the future we will provide relevant
activities prior to essay deadlines to help students create successful essays.