Upper-division introductory course in Planetary Science designed for science majors. Topics include origin of the solar system, planetary surfaces and interiors, atmospheres, and solar system dynamics.
A much smaller class than any I've taught before; class size capped at 20. Also much more quantitative, making use of calculus and physics. There is no adequate textbook for a class at this level. I've supplemented this by including readings of current journal articles in Nature, Science, and Scientific American, and holding weekly discussions. This also gives students an insight into the scientific literature, how planetary science findings are reported, and the peer-review process. Students also gain familiarity with the literature by conducting a term research project on a topic of their choice.
Here is my statement of teaching
and learning, which describes my views and experience of teaching
Most graduate students serve as a TA at some point during their career. Although it's not required, it is good preparation for a career in academia or other teaching. I'd like to think my commitment runs somwhat deeper than that, however. I want the general populace to learn more about astronomy, but more important than that, I want to get them interested in it. I'd much rather have interested students in my class than merely bright students. An interested student will retain knowledge after he or she leaves my class and will continue to learn on his or her own.
Balance is another issue to consider. As graduate students we often
have both research
and teaching duties. It's very easy to concentrate on one to the
exclusion of the other.
Often it's research that wins out because, let's face it, that's where
the funding is and
that's primarily what employers look at when we look for jobs. I think
we can become
better teachers without letting the research suffer, and I'd like to
work on that.
When we start to TA, we're not just thrown into the fire. The Graduate Teacher Program provides us with workshops where we can actually learn how to become better teachers. They offer certification programs as incentives. There's a fair chance of a useful workshop being offered at least once a week, and several during the Fall Intensive and Spring Conference.
From 2004-2006, I served as the APS department's Lead Graduate Teacher. I act as a liason between the GTP and the grad students in our department. I'm available to conduct videotape consultations (that's where I videotape your class, we watch the tape and I, well, consult with you on your teaching), and I'll be organizing discipline-specific workshops, as well as participating in the departmental TA training this fall.
"How to Succeed in Graduate School" -- a web presentation given at the 2004 APS TA Training
I was the instructor for this introductory course for non-majors this past summer session. We covered celestial motions, some basic physics concepts (energy, light, motion) and planetary science. During the summer, an entire semester is crammed into five weeks, so it's pretty intense. I taught class every day, Monday through Friday for 95 minutes. Since no one can pay attention to even the most interesting lecture for that long, I tried to break the classes up with plenty of in-class activities. This was also my first experience using the H-ITT clicker sticks for instant feedback. We also held a few classes in the planetarium and had night observing at the Sommers-Bausch Observatory.
I gave the final exam a week early and let the students vote on their favorite topics to be covered the last week of class. For the record the most popular topics are Constellation myths, Astronomy in scifi, Space Exploration, and Extrasolar planets.
I taught a lab section for this class. This is the first semester of the majors' introductory sequence. The first half of the class deals with basic concepts (celestial motions, distances, scales) and observational techniques (light, optics, spectroscopy). Then we go on a whirlwind tour of the Solar System and talk about planetary science. This class has a weekly lab meeting and occasional nighttime observing. If all goes well, clicking the heading for this class will take you to the web page for my lab section.
For this class I ran a laboratory section. This involved setting up the experiments, introducing them each week via a mini-lecture, supervising and generally helping out while the students conducted the lab exercises and grading the lab reports. The lab involved a two-hour daytime exercise every week and sporadic night-time observations throughout the semester. I also attended the lectures associated with this class, ran some review sessions for homeworks and graded the final exam.
During the term this class was taught, we experimented with a Help Room to replace office hours. The concept of this Help Room was that it would be continuously staffed with graduate students every day who would be able to help students in any intro-level astronomy course. While the Physics department has had great success with this kind of thing, we did not. Our department has insufficient graduate students to staff the room efficiently and it was sparsely attended by the intro students. We have since returned to the old model of having TAs hold individual office hours for students in their class.
Every Thursday's class was held in the planetarium. Students were required to complete certain observing projects such as building a sundial and a solar calendar, tracking the moon for a full cycle, and learning the constellations.
Cultures discussed included the ancient Egyptians, Mayans, Hawaiians, Druids, the Navajo, and the Lakota.
For this class, I attended the lectures, graded homeworks, observing projects, and exams, as well as giving the odd lecture or two. I held office hours and nighttime observing sessions.