Astro 300 (Fall 2006)

Syllabus Summary:

Official Course Description:

Discussion and practice of teaching techniques, as applied to astronomy. Open to graduate students who are presently teaching assistants or associates. Two units for course plus one section; three units for two discussion sections.

General Information:

  1. Instructor: Holly Maness, hmaness@astro, 727B Campbell Hall, 510-643-0465 (Louis-Benoit Desroches will also help teach the course later in the semester.)
  2. Faculty Sponsor: Gibor Basri, basri@astro, 651 Campbell Hall, 510-642-8198
  3. Office Hours: by appointment, or not; feel free to stop by.
  4. Meeting Time and Place: TBA (whatever works for everyone's schedule)

Typical Class Breakdown:

  1. Good Demos & Worksheets for the Week: 20 minutes
  2. Special Topic: 20 minutes
  3. Directed Discussion: 20 minutes

Semester Assignments:

  1. Peer Visitation
  2. Design a Demo
  3. Video-taping
  4. Occasional Short Reading Assignments

Special Topics:

We'll cover each of the below topics in 1-2 weeks. Additional special topics may be added over the course of the semester, as needed; feel free to make suggestions!

  1. Getting Started: The Ground Rules
  2. Berkeley Physics and Astronomy Resources
  3. Teaching Strategies: Peer-Learning (including TALC) and Lecturing (including board-work)
  4. Your First Section
  5. Writing Homework Assignments
  6. Writing Midterms and Quizzes
  7. Peer Visitation
  8. Academic Honesty and Cheating Policies
  9. Mid-Semester Evaluations
  10. Video-taping
  11. Designing Your Own Course

Berkeley Astronomy Teaching Resources / Contacts:

  • Big Red Binder: contains numerous worksheets, activities, and demo descriptions developed by past GSIs; 7th Floor Library in Campbell Hall
  • Portable Video Projector: great for showing pretty pictures and online demos when the room you're using doesn't have a built-in projector; make a reservation well in advance by going to: http://astro.berkeley.edu/video/reservations/video.html and contact central@astro if you run into reservation problems
  • Digital Camera: great for memorizing student names; contact central@astro to reserve the camera well in advance
  • Course Web: online directory of students in a given course or section - for memorizing student names; GSI names must be assigned by a department administrator (Dexter) to specific sections before this system works. Also, see Facebook for online student pictures.
  • Star-Party Telescopes: great for giving students what they want (pretty astronomy!), contact Jonah Hare (jonah@astro)
  • Astronomy Department Demos:
  1. Atomic Lines: set of diffraction gratings and tubes filled with various atomic gasses excited using an arc lamp, available in Evans cabinet
  2. Sunspots: viewer projects Sun onto a screen, available in Evans cabinet
  3. Spiral Density Waves: slinky on a hoola-hoop, available in Evans cabinet
  4. Warping of Spacetime: 2D analogy with stretchy black fabric and balls/weights; available in Evans cabinet
  5. Expansion of Universe: 2D toy Universe in which galaxies (represented by dots) get farther from each other in time snapshots (represented by transparencies), can be used to derive a Hubble Law, available in Big Red Binder
  6. Celestial Sphere: essential to use 3D demonstrations for this, many demos including foam balls available in Evans cabinet
  7. Phases of the Moon: bright light is Moon, one student holds the Moon, and other students are Earth (all clumped together); for a particular moon phase, students move to different times of the day and determine when the moon can be seen, available in Evans cabinet
  • Physics Department Demos: contact demos@physics to reserve a demonstration at least one day before class. Only demos that can fit in a standard printer-paper box can be taken out of LeConte; larger demos can be set up in a LeConte lecture room, if one is available. To view descriptions of the available demos, go to http://physics.berkeley.edu/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=54&Itemid=95. Numbers of demos most immediately relevant to astronomy are listed below:
  1. How a Rainbow Works (reflection and refraction): E+60+10, doesn't fit in a box
  2. Radiation Pressure: C+65+15, fits in a box
  3. No Sound in a Vacuum: B+45+15, fits in a box
  4. Wave Interference (beats for two sound sources): B+35+25, fits in a box
  5. EM Wave Model: D+5+32, fits in a box
  6. Doppler Effect for Sound: B+65+0, fits in a box
  7. Inverse Square Law for Light: E+55+0, probably fits in a box
  8. Gas Temperature and Particle Motion: C+55+0, fits in a box
  9. Blackbody Spectra and Wien's Law: E+65+25, doesn't fit in a box
  10. Model of the Eye: E+30+65, doesn't fit in a box
  11. Diffraction Limit: E+10+45, fits in a box
  12. Airy Disk: E+10+10, doesn't fit in a box
  13. Acceleration due to Gravity (feather and rock fall in vacuum): A+0+0, probably fits in a box
  14. Conservation of Angular Momentum (rotating chair with bicycle wheel): A+30+15, doesn't fit in a box
  15. Convection: C+20+0, fits in a box
  16. Earth's Magnetic Field: D+30+4, fits in a box
  17. Center of Mass: A+50+37, fits in a box
  • Other Simple Demos:
  1. Slinky: demonstrates transverse vs. longitudinal waves and reflection; I have a slinky if you'd like to borrow it
  2. Cow Magnet: can tell students that waving it up and down generates radiation; I have one from my Iowa days if you'd like to borrow it
  3. Dog Whistle: demonstrates that just as there's sound you can't hear, there's light you can't see
  4. Diet Coke and Mentos: Drop four Mentos in Diet Coke and you get a Diet Coke fountain; demonstrates that sometimes science is predictable but sometimes it surprises the hell out of you
  5. Atomic Transitions with Color Balls and Steps: classic Alex demo; different colors represent photon energies, a student throws a ball at the instructor and he catches it and jumps to a higher step if the “photon has the appropriate energy,” he throws the ball when jumping back down
  6. Orbits using Analogy of Donut on a String: another classic Alex demo; donut is moon, instructor is Earth, and string tied on donut represents gravity, instructor swings donut in a circle (orbit) and when gravity is turned off (string eats through donut), the donut flies off in a straight line
  7. Hydrostatic Equilibrium with a Hair Dryer and Balloon: hold balloon up with dryer
  8. Expansion of Universe with Balloon: space is 2D surface of balloon and time represented by radial direction; Universe expands in time and all points on balloon get increasingly far from each other
  9. Shape of Universes: flatten a balloon by cutting it to show that the area of a circle is less than pi*r^2 and flatten a Pringle potato chip to show that the area of a circle is greater than pi*r^2
  10. Why Winter is Colder than Summer: shine a flashlight directly on the wall and show that the light is more concentrated than the case in which the flashlight is tilted
  • Mastering Astronomy Online Demos: good electronic demos (especially for the celestial sphere) available for classes using Bennett's “The Cosmic Perspective;” go to http://session.masteringastronomy.com/myct?productID=26217
  • Clickers (Audience Response System): audience response system good for keeping student attention and diagnosing student understanding during lecture; department currently has a set of 36 clickers (transmitters) and one receiver stored by Dexter; software is available for download at http://www.gtcocalcomp.com/prs_software.php; contact Andrea Monter at GTCO CalComp (800-344-4723, ext 203; AMonter@gtcocalcomp.com) to order more clickers; sometimes, you can get free clickers when you purchase the textbooks for your class - ask Amy Teeling (Amy.Teeling@aw.com, 510-547-2211) if you'd like to hear more about this option.
  • Creating an E-Reserve Webpage: good for posting large things (e.g. Powerpoint presentations); to set up an account, you will need to allow a few days; to get started, go to http://eres.berkeley.edu/
  • Physics-Astronomy Library: good for putting books on reserve so that students running on a tight budget do not have to buy the book; contact Heather Pena (hpena@library)
  • Bookstore (Cal Student Store): good for coordinating book-ordering or clicker ordering; call (510) 642-9000 and ask to speak with Barbara
  • GSI Teaching and Resource Center: good for directing you to various parts of the University and giving general teaching information; go to http://gsi.berkeley.edu/
  • Educational Technology Services: good for learning about various technology services available on campus and for getting keys to cabinets in lecture rooms; visit http://ets.berkeley.edu/ or go to the basement of Dwinelle Hall; to quickly view room attributes, go to http://students.berkeley.edu/rooms/attributes.asp
  • Outside Resources:
  1. University of Washington Resources (great handouts and teaching resources, contact Andrew West with questions, awest@astro): Like Astro 10 (http://www.astro.washington.edu/labs/clearinghouse/); Like Astro 12 (http://www.astro.washington.edu/smith/Astro150/, http://www.astro.washington.edu/smith/Astro150/Notebook/Spr2006.pdf)
  2. Center for Astronomy Education (good teaching tips and discussion groups, contact Janet Caspers, jcaspers@berkeley): http://astronomy101.jpl.nasa.gov/index.cfm

Semester Assignments:

  1. Peer Visitation: About halfway through the semester, you will be required to visit another GSI's section. A third GSI will visit your section as well. You will then be required to meet outside of class to discuss general impressions. Afterwards, we will talk in class about the results for the group as a whole.
  2. Design a Demo: Sometime during the semester you will be required to design a demo for the class you are teaching. If the demo is easy to construct, we will get funds through Dexter for you to build the demonstration. If the demo is very expensive, you will only be required to write-up your idea for the Big Red Binder so that the idea can be revisited later by future GSIs.
  3. Video-taping: Towards the end of the semester, I will videotape a section for each GSI. You will then be required to watch your videotape with me so that we can critique your teaching style.
  4. Occasional Short Reading Assignments: I may occasionally assign short readings on pedagogy for discussion during class the following week.

Getting Started (The Ground Rules):

There are a few basic “ground rules” that are essential to being a good GSI. Different people will phrase these rules slightly differently, but here's the general consensus:

  1. Go to Lecture: You CANNOT be a good GSI if you are not attending the course lectures. Even if you think you know the material well, different professors explain material in different ways, and emphasize/de-emphasize certain material. In order to be able to field student questions and present a coherent course structure to students in section, you must know what happened in lecture. I can personally attest to the fact that lecture helps: My first two semesters teaching, I did not regularly attend lecture, and I was only a mediocre GSI. My third semester teaching, I attended every single lecture, and as a result, I was an excellent GSI. Many professors will tell you that lecture attendance is not required; if they tell you this, they are essentially saying that they don't care whether their GSIs do a good job. If you want to be a good GSI, you must attend lecture.
  2. Prepare for Section: You must come into section with a plan. “Winging it” will not work. Good sections generally begin with a demo or related-news article. Then the GSI gives a short introduction to the material that will be reviewed that day. Finally, students work in groups with a GSI-designed worksheet that covers the relevant material. The worksheet is arguably the most important part of section. It is essential that the students have a clear hardcopy of what you're asking them to do; just telling them what to do won't work. Coming up with a good worksheet generally takes less than an hour, especially if you borrow from other GSI worksheets (found in the “Big Red Binder”). It is well worth the time to bring a worksheet to class.
  3. Learn Your Students' Names: People work hard for bosses they like and don't work hard for bosses they hate. For this reason, it is essential that you develop good rapport with your students. With only one hour of section per week, this task is very difficult. A good starting point, however, is to learn your students' names immediately (within the first couple weeks of section). I suggest you learn students' names by taking a digital photograph of each student during the first section, and record names as you take the photos. Then, learn the names with the pictures at home. It probably won't take very long to learn the names - 1 hour at most - and it will make a huge difference in your section atmosphere for the rest of the semester. If you do not have a digital camera, the department has one that you can reserve; e-mail central@astro well in advance of your section to let them know that you'd like to use the camera.
  4. Make Yourself Available to Students: Set aside a few hours each week to help students outside of class. Many undergraduates are intimidated by professors, but do not mind talking to GSIs. For these students, you are the only source of personal help for the course. It is, therefore, imperative that you make yourself as approachable and available to students as possible. Generally 1-2 hours of scheduled office hours plus one night of TALC (evening homework help sessions) per week is plenty.

Section Teaching Strategies (Peer-Learning vs. Lecturing):

In general, there is much debate about the best way to transmit information to students; some people argue that the traditional lecture-style is best, while others argue that a contemporary workshop-style is best. However, for you as a GSI, the teaching method is specified in advance. You are hired to teach a “discussion section,” which means that the students must be active participants during section. I would argue that forcing students to discuss the material in section is the best way to get material across anyway. However, what I think is irrelevant. The point is that YOU ARE NOT HIRED TO LECTURE; you are instead hired to facilitate student discussion.

That said, before throwing students into a group worksheet, it is probably best to give a short (5-10 minutes) lecture introduction, reviewing class material relevant to section that day. Give a quick outline on the board of what you're going to talk about; then briefly discuss each outline topic. Make sure your hand-writing is legible and large and that your white-board marker works. (It's generally best to bring your own set of white-board markers to class; you can ask Bora for a set if you don't already have one.)

After your brief lecture, give students a worksheet that tests their understanding of the material you just reviewed. Break students into groups, letting students choose their own group or not. Each group should write-up their solutions on the board, with a different student writing up solutions each week. You should periodically visit each group and choose a random student to explain selected answers to you. If there's time, it's often a good idea to reconvene at the end of section and have student groups explain some of the more difficult concepts to the class as a whole. Before students leave, provide them with photocopied solutions of the worksheet so that they are less likely to leave section with misconceptions, and so that they are less compelled to take notes during group-work time.

TALC (The Astronomy Learning Center):

TALC (The Astronomy Learning Center) is very similar in character to discussion section. Students work in groups (usually at the board) on their homework. Typically, two GSIs are present to field questions. TALC is generally held a couple of evenings a week, each session lasting a couple of hours. You are advised to use TALC as part of your office-hour time. It is a good idea to read through the assignment before TALC to make sure that you are prepared to coherently answer all student questions. Each time you host TALC, put up a sign on the outside door with your cell phone number (or the room phone number) so that students can call you to get let into the building. When the phone rings, have the last student who was let in get the door for the next person.

The TALC rules are posted on a large poster board in the TALC room. GSIs are encouraged to go over the rules during the first couple TALC sessions and refer students to them later when necessary. Here are the TALC rules:

  1. GSIs DON'T give out answers.
  2. GSIs won't look at your paper.
  3. Board work gets PRIORITY help.
  4. NO COPYING: Homework must be written up independently.
  5. TALC Tax: Getting help from a GSI means that you may be asked to give help to other students.
  6. GSIs busy? Ask students.

Your First Section:

  1. Start with Something Flashy! First impressions are important, so it's a good idea to get students on your side early on. For this reason, you might want to do something cool and exciting at the beginning of your first section. Personally, I like to spend the first five minutes of every section with this sort of ice-breaker, but it's really only essential for your first section. The “show and tell” you choose is totally up to you. You could start with a cool demo, a quote about science, or a recent astronomy news article. Spend some time thinking about something cool you'd like to share with your students; this is your chance to show off your creativity and enthusiasm for science!
  2. Introduce Yourself. After your ice-breaker, spend a couple of minutes introducing yourself to students. Tell students your year in grad school, where you went to college and where you're from, what sub-field within astronomy you like most, etc. Students will like you better if they see you as a person, instead of just an astronomy database!
  3. Take Care of Logistics. Don't forget to announce TALC, office hours, star parties, etc. Also, ask the students if they have any general questions about the course.
  4. Learn Students' Names. The best way to learn students' names is by taking a digital photograph of each student and recording the names as you take the photos. Acquiring thirty pictures will take a while, so you may want to take the photos after you've started a group worksheet.
  5. Conduct a Normal Section. It's important to present an accurate picture of the course as early as possible, so after your flashy topic and introduction, you should conduct a “normal” section. By “normal,” I mean give a brief lecture introduction on the material for that day and then break students into groups to work on a group worksheet. Since there generally isn't too much essential section material to present the first week, I like to start Astro 10 sections with a math review worksheet; there are tons of these worksheets in the Big Red Binder. Finally, make sure you enforce section rules from the very beginning, so if students are not doing what you want, correct them on this first day. For example, if you want students to go to the board, make them go to the board; if you let them sit down the first day, you will never get them to stand up later in the semester.

Writing Homework Assignments:

In my experience, writing good homework assignments is one of the hardest parts of teaching. I have struggled with what “the point of homework” is, and I don't claim to present a perfect, all-purpose philosophy here. Nevertheless, here's a list of a few blanket points to keep in mind when writing homework:

  1. Walk Students through the Problem. Students, especially non-science majors, tend to be overwhelmed by a problem if they are presented too many details at once. While it is good to force students to think hard about a problem, you also want students to complete the homework. At the beginning of my summer Astro 10 course, I assigned difficult homework problems because I wanted students to puzzle over the problems for a long time and pursue many dead-ends before arriving at the correct solutions. Unfortunately, “puzzling” itself is a learned skill, and at the beginning of my course, students left many homework problems blank because they were too intimidated by the questions. Therefore, as the course progressed, I found it was generally best to split my problems into many parts that walked students through the questions. Often, I also included hints that referred students back to previous problems (e.g. “Hint: If you are stuck, see assignment 2, problem 4.”). The hints gave struggling students a way to proceed but were not immediately helpful because they required students to look up previous problems. As a result, I believe students generally tried to think about the problems at least a little bit before immediately using the hints.
  2. Don't Make the Final Parts Depend on Previous Parts. While it's smart to break up problems into “bite-size” chunks, don't make final parts of a problem depend completely on previous parts. For example, if completion of part c requires a mass estimate from part b, write at the end of part c, “If you do not have an answer for part b, use M=10^33 kg.” Students who are stuck on part b will be likely to attempt part c if you do this.
  3. Ask Questions at a Variety of Difficulty Levels. As I alluded to earlier, one of my goals for homework is to teach students to puzzle over the homework questions. I tell my students, “Any problem that I give you that you immediately know how to do is a waste of your time.” Homework should strengthen students' understanding of the material, so homework should challenge every student. Because students have a range of ability and interest, you must write some easy questions and some hard questions so that each student learns something from doing the homework.
  4. Edit for Clarity. Breaking your problems up into parts will help make your questions clear. However, it is still a good idea to carefully edit your assignments because ambiguous questions both upset students and make grading difficult later. If possible, have a fellow GSI read a draft of your problem set before assigning it. The second GSI may have good suggestions for improving question wording.
  5. Shoot for Continuity. One of my goals as a physical sciences instructor is to demonstrate to students that much of the course material can be understood through the application of just a few simple physical principles. I, therefore, try to make all of my problem sets over the course of the semester as connected as possible. For example, in Astro 10, most of the homework problems I assigned were applications of blackbodies or Newton's Law of Gravitation, and I tried to avoid assigning homework questions that were too topic-specific (e.g. the Tully-Fisher Relation).

Writing Midterms and Quizzes:

As a GSI, you may be asked to write and give section quizzes and/or write midterm questions. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind in writing exam questions:

  1. Test the material emphasized. It is more important that students have a deep understanding of the important concepts than a peripheral understanding of everything. You exams should reflect this philosophy. In other words, you should not test students on miniscule details or lecture asides. Instead, the vast majority of the exam should cover the main points presented in lecture and discussion section. Good exam questions require the student to use what he learned in class to move beyond what was directly presented (e.g. another application of the same concept, the same situation with one variable changed slightly, etc.)
  2. Keep your questions short and to the point. Your exams should be challenging, while also requiring the student to spend the majority of his time thinking, rather than reading. It is especially unfair to international students to give long, wordy questions. Long, wordy questions are also subject to ambiguity.
  3. Edit your questions for clarity. Keeping your exam questions short will automatically make most questions clear. However, it is still a good idea to carefully edit your exams because ambiguous questions both upset students and make grading difficult later. If possible, have a fellow GSI take your quiz or midterm in advance of giving it. The second GSI may have good suggestions for improving question wording.
  4. Do not write a long test. Your test should assess student understanding, not student speed. Therefore, good exams should be easily completed in the allocated time by 90 percent of students. One way to gauge whether your test is too long is by having a fellow GSI take your exam. Double the time it takes the GSI to take the exam in order to estimate how long the exam will take your typical student.

Academic Honesty and Cheating Policies:

The university offers a website for instructors on how to deal with cheating. You should read this, the Instructor's Guide there, and the department cheating policy.

Here is an outline of the process:

Every semester, at least one GSI has to deal with a cheating case. Normally, the cheating is found in the context of student labs (e.g. a student claims to have seen a full moon at noon). The best way to prevent cheating is to not put students in a situation in which they might feel inclined to cheat. In my course, I prevented lab cheating by having my students observe the moon once per homework assignment and then explain all of their observations at the end. As a GSI, you rarely have the luxury of designing the astronomy labs, so you might have to deal with an academic honesty case. Nevertheless, in an attempt to prevent cheating, you should direct students to the department's policy on cheating early in the semester: http://astro.berkeley.edu/classes/cheating.html

If you get a case of academic dishonesty, discuss the matter with the head GSI or the professor. It is best for everyone involved if the student admits that he cheated because it avoids a protacted disciplinary hearing. The easiest way to get a student to admit cheating is to simply ask them. If the case involves copied homeworks (the most common infraction), meet with the students separately.

Schedule an appointment with the student(s). They may know what the meeting is about, but don't go out of your way to inform him if he doesn't. Arrange for a second GSI (normally the head) to be present with you during this conversation. Before making any accusations, ask the student if he knows why he's been called in. If he does not, pull out the assignment in question and ask the student to explain to you exactly how he completed it. At this point, the student may admit to cheating. If not, point out the problem, and explain why you think the student cheated. At this point most students will realize they're in trouble and be relieved when you explain that they're only going to get a zero on the assignment. Explain to them that the alternative is a disciplinary hearing. If the student maintains his innocence, keep an open mind and consider his explainations. In cases of copying both the copier and copy-ee are usually punished, but use your discresion. Students who cheat should get a zero on the assignment, but this is at the discresion of the professor.

Have students who admit cheating sign a disciplinary form. If it is a first offense, this form will merely serve as a record with the discipline office. It's important to have the student sign the form to prevent repeat offences. If the case is not a first offense, more drastic action may taken by the University, but at that point it's not your problem.

If the student does not admit to the infraction, carefully document the cheating (keep all originals, give copies to the student and the discipline office) and fill out the appropriate discipline form. After winding through the bureaucracy, there will be a formal academic hearing where you will present your case to the board (not necessarily in person). The consequences are worse for the student if he is convicted after a formal hearing, instead of admitting to cheating beforehand, because in addition to the zero on the assignment, the student also suffers the punishment of the discipline panel. Punishments for first offences are rarely harsh (a letter of apology or some such), but subsequent offences can be punished severely.

Mid-Semester Evaluations:

About half-way through the semester, you should ask students to fill out mid-semester evaluations during the last 10-minutes of section. Student feedback at mid-semester allows you to adjust your section as necessary to match student demands. I believe the best evaluations are open-ended because they allow students to discuss the things they feel most strongly about. There are many examples of mid-semester evaluations in the Big Red Binder. Here is an example of an evaluation I used during my summer Astro 10 course:

  1. Draw a face that best describes how you feel about this class.
  2. Describe three things you like about this class.
  3. Describe three things you dislike about this class.
  4. Additional Comments
  5. On a scale of 1-5 (5 being great, 1 being horrible), please rate how you feel about the following aspects of this course. Write “N/A” (not applicable) if you have no opinion, or if you have no experience with the listed item.
  • Lecture (including New Material and Review Slide)
  • Physics Demonstrations (in LeConte Hall)
  • Astronomy / Other Demonstrations (in Evans Hall)
  • Astronomy in the News
  • Electronic Clickers
  • In-Class Group Work
  • Discussion Section
  • Online Resources (slides, solutions, worksheets, syllabus, etc.)
  • Homework (Observations and Class Applications)
  • Assigned Reading
  • Beginning-of-Semester Student Meetings
  • Office Hours / Individual Appointments
  • Monday Night Homework Help
  • Exam Review Sessions
  • Lecture Quizzes and/or Reading Quizzes
  • Exams
  • “Fortune” Cookies
  • Star Parties

Designing Your Own Course:

I believe the key to designing a good course is writing a good course syllabus. An excellent syllabus tutorial can be found at http://www1.umn.edu/ohr/teachlearn/tutorials/syllabus/ . The Berkeley GSI Teaching and Resource Center also has a useful syllabus writing guide: http://teaching.berkeley.edu/bgd/syllabus.html . Your syllabus should include at a very minimum general information, course description, prerequisite knowledge, goals for the course, teaching methods and typical course breakdown, text and materials, suggested study techniques, grading breakdown, course policies, opportunities for help outside of class, and a detailed day-by-day schedule listing daily topics and reading assignments.

Before doing anything else, you should think about your goals for the course. Write them down. These should be broad, over-arching goals, and everything you do later in the course should be geared towards accomplishing one or more of these goals. Here are the goals I established for my Astro 10 summer course:

At the end of this course, students should have:

  1. A heightened awe and appreciation for the miraculous Universe in which we live.
  2. An ability to argue scientifically, both qualitatively and quantitatively, using basic physical principles.
  3. A solid understanding of astronomy concepts related to everyday life (e.g. seasons, moon phases, tides, global warming).

After establishing your course goals, you should think about general strategies you can implement to accomplish these goals. For example, to help accomplish the first goal above, I made an effort to host regular star parties and show lots of pretty images relating to the course material. In designing your teaching methods strategy, you should take into account the structure of your course. My summer course, for instance, was six weeks long, with two hours of class every day. I, therefore, decided that I needed to limit the material I covered and frequently break-up the class time to keep students (and me!) awake. I started out every class with a 5-minute quiz on the material from the previous day. Then, I started lecture with “Show and Tell” (e.g. an astronomy related news article or a cool science demo). I then gave a 40-minute lecture on the course material for the day, followed by a 10-minute break. After break, students broke-up into pre-assigned groups to work on a worksheet I designed to test student understanding of the lecture material. I think this general structure worked very well for my short, 35-student course. However, it would be completely infeasible in a full-semester, 1000-student course.

Once you've identified your basic teaching strategies and typical classtime breakdown, you should develop a specific semester schedule, listing the material that will be covered each day, accompanied by the assigned reading for that material. Make sure your schedule is somewhat flexible so that if you get behind, you won't miss out on major topics at the end of the course (e.g. in Astro 10, run out of time for any cosmology).

At this point, you'll basically be done with your course syllabus and ready to teach the course. Of course, you'll have to adjust some of your strategies and policies as you go, but coming up with a concrete strategy and roadmap before you start will make your class as a whole hang together much better than if you just decided to “wing it” as you go.