Introductory Astronomy Student-Centered Active Learning at the George Washington University
The Physics Department at the George Washington University has been successfully using student-centered active learning (SCALE-UP) in physics classes since 2008. Recently (since fall 2011), we have been developing and implementing introductory (non-majors) astronomy classes taught in the student-centered active learning mode. Class time is devoted to engaging in hands-on activities and laboratories and tackling questions and problems in a workbook. Students work in small groups, and multiple instructors circulate to answer questions and engage students in the material. Research has shown that students who are engaged in this manner have an increased
conceptual understanding of the material. In developing our “Stars, Planets and Life” course into an interactive class, we encountered many challenges, but there have also been positive outcomes. Improvements to this class are ongoing, and in fall of 2013 we will begin full implementation of SCALE-UP in our “Introduction to the Cosmos” course.