Teaching Gravity and Tides: Use Textbooks, Simulations or Videos?
We present the results of a small-scale exploratory study aimed at testing the efficacy of three methods for teaching students basic physical concepts as they pertain to introductory astronomy. We have focused on the instruction of gravity and tides by means of standard textbook instruction, interactive computer simulation, and short video clips. We find that while all three methods have their merits, by and large both video clips and computer simulations appear to do a better job at explaining the physical concepts to the students. Having said this, none of the methods appear to be able to overcome the students’ preconceptions unless they are specifically addressed; if left unaddressed, all three methods fail to improve the students’ understanding.