AY 375 - Fall 2019: Syllabus

Printed versions of this document may be out of date. The most up-to-date version of this syllabus is always available on the Course Website.

Official Course Description

The discussion and practice of teaching techniques, as applied to physics and astronomy. Open to any graduate students who are presently teaching assistants or associates (though particular emphasis will be given to astronomy themed courses).

This course qualifies for the GSI Teaching and Resource Center's Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.

General Information

Graduate Instructors Faculty Instructor
Names: Michael Medford
Kareem El-Badry
Eliot Quataert
E-mails : michaelmedford@berkeley
Offices: 501T-D

Website: http://badgrads.berkeley.edu/doku.php?id=astro300_f19

Office Hours: Feel free to stop by our cubes anytime. E-mail us to make a specific appointment.

Meeting Time and Place: Wednesdays, 5-6:30pm, Campbell 131

Course Materials: There is no official textbook for this course (though suggested texts are given on the wiki). The Ay375 wiki will serve as the course reader. There you will find links to all the assignments, readings, handouts, class lesson plans, and supplemental materials. The wiki is an evolving entity; be sure to check it regularly for updates.

Units, Grading, and Class Requirements

This class is a 2-3 unit course graded on a Pass/No Pass basis. Please enroll using CCN 21219. In order to receive a 'Pass', you must:

  1. Miss no more than one section of class. Further absences must be compensated for by doing make-up assignments.
  2. Complete all assignments, most which are outlined below.

The intent is to have the weekly homework be a minimal burden and time commitment; you should never have to spend very much time on it and we would much rather you spend your time preparing for section. However, you are required to complete all of the weekly assignments ON TIME.

Description of the Class

The goals of Ay375 are:

  • To pass on some pedagogical, as well as practical, words of wisdom regarding teaching (in particular teaching astronomy, especially to an audience of non-scientists).
  • To facilitate an open forum where we can discuss and practice a wide range of teaching issues, both in theory and in practice.
  • To provide resources for you, as astronomy teachers, that will help you both in the short term as GSIs of your sections as well as in the long term as professional teachers/researchers.
  • To not waste anyone's time!

Classroom Atmosphere

It is our hope that this class will be relaxed and relatively informal, but let's make sure to keep it civil and respectful in here. (We don't expect this to be an issue, but you never know.) A large part of this class will involve active participation by each of you, so when someone else is talking, please give them your undivided attention and let's try to keep it to one person talking at a time.

Typical Class Breakdown

  1. Students recap how their sections went
  2. Discuss and collect homework assignment
  3. Directed discussion and/or activity on the day's topic

Topics & In-Class Activities

We will be covering a wide variety of topics, including interactive learning techniques, group work utilization, test and quiz-writing, ethics, dealing with student anxieties, implementing demos, good board-work habits, and more. The course wiki has all the lessons plans, reading material, and supplemental material. We will not repeat it here.

Short Description of Assignments

  • Lesson Plans and Teaching Log: Each week, we would like you take some notes in the margins of your lesson plans regarding how section went. These lesson plans will be checked on a semi-regular basis (announced in advance).
  • Weekly Short Reading or Writing Assignments: There will occasionally be short readings or writing assignments that will be due at the beginning of the following class.
  • Visitations: You will attend a section taught by one of your peers. Afterwards, you will meet that GSI outside of class to discuss general impressions and ideas for improvement, and fill out a worksheet.
  • Section Videotaping: The instructors will videotape one of your sections. After the taping, you will be required to later watch the video and reflect on your style of running section.
  • Optional: EBRB Contribution: By the end of the semester, you may have come up with clever lesson plans, effective worksheets, or something you would like to share. If so, you may upload your materials to the EBRB.

“It's been said that Astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character­ building experience.”
–­­Carl Sagan, American astronomer (1934­-1996)