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Paper: A National Study Assessing the Teaching and Learning of Introductory Astronomy; Part I: The Effect of Interactive Instruction
Volume: 443, Earth and Space Science: Making Connections in Education and Public Outreach
Page: 476
Authors: Prather, E. E.; Rudolph, A. L.; Brissenden, G.; Schlingman, W. M.
Abstract: We present the results of a national study on the teaching and learning of astronomy taught in general education, non-science major, introductory astronomy courses (Astro 101). Nearly 4000 students enrolled in 69 sections of Astro 101 taught at 31 institutions completed (pre- and post- instruction) the Light and Spectroscopy Concept Inventory (LSCI) from Fall 2006 to Fall 2007. The classes varied in size from very small (N < 10) to large (N∼180) and were from all types of institutions, including both 2-year and 4-year colleges and universities. To study how the instruction in different classrooms affected student learning, we developed and administered an Interactivity Assessment Instrument (IAI). This short survey, completed by instructors, allowed us to estimate the fraction of classroom time spent on learner- centered, active-engagement instruction such as Peer Instruction and collaborative tutorials. Pre-instruction LSCI scores were clustered around ∼25% (24 ± 2%), independent of class size and institution type; however, the gains measured varied from about (–)0.07–0.50. The distribution of gain scores indicates that differences were due to instruction in the classroom, not the type of class or institution. Interactivity Assessment Scores (IAS's) ranged from 0%–50%, showing that our IAI was able to distinguish between classes with higher and lower levels of interactivity. A comparison of class-averaged gain score to IAS showed that higher interactivity classes (IAS > 25%) were the only instructional environments capable of reaching the highest gains (〈g〉> 0.30). However, the range of gains seen for both groups of classes was quite wide, suggesting that the use of interactive learning strategies is not sufficient by itself to achieve high student gain.
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