Sunday, December 2, 2007

Resource Post: Lecture Tutorials

Below, I give a review of the lecture-tutorial activities that are becoming popular in astronomy (and to a lesser extent, physics) teaching. Links and bibliographic information are given on the books and associated materials, to help teachers find the tutorial material without having to search all over of the internet. I have also included links to three tutorial activities I have written. If you have classroom tested tutorial activities that you have written, and would like to have them listed here, comment below with a link.

Lecture Tutorials

In the past few decades, one of the clear, reproducible results in in physics and astronomy education is that the traditional lecture format is inadequate in achieving the the highest possible student learning gains (for example, see Hake, R.R., 1998; references listed below).

Better results are obtained when active learning is implemented within the course structure. Rather than lecture-alone, students can be asked to work on processing activities in small groups. Lecture-tutorials are guided sets of questions that lead students through difficult concepts, focusing on those that ellicit the most misconceptions, and force a cognitive confrontation by the end of the activity. The activities often involve students reading debates between fictional peers, and evaluating who is correct, if at all.

Lecture tutorials were first developed in physics and then later in astronomy. Other fields have started to catch on to the idea as well (see geology activities below). For introductory astronomy, the tutorials developed by Arizona's CAPER team are the clear standard. Their research with the tutorials has been implemented in large lecture sections. Students given a pre-test in basic astronomy concepts typically score an average of 30%. The CAPER team has demonstrated that with a traditional lecture format, student acheive a statistically significant (but pedagogically disappointing) post-test average of 50%. With the lecture plus lecture-tutorial approach, the CAPER team has demonstrated that students achieve a post-test average of 70% (Prather, et al, 2003). Clearly, using lecture tutorials gives a superior learning experience than the traditional lecture format.

A very good discussion of how to implement lecture tutorials, given with an appropriate background in learning theory, is presented by Erik Brogt in a recent issue of Astronomy Education Review (Brogt, 2007).

In this resource post, I will list citations for the lecture-tutorial books for students, in both astronomy and physics. I recently corresponded with Karen Kortz of the Community College of Rhode Island, who pointed me to a set of lecture-tutorial activities for geology that she has developed with Jessica Jager Smay of San Jose City College. Links to Kortz's activities are given below.

Lecture Tutorials in Introductory Astronomy

Lecture Tutorials in Introductory Astronomy, 2/E
Authors: Edward Prather, Tim Slater, Jeffrey Adams, and Gina Brissenden
Publisher: Addison-Wesley
Year: 2007
ISBN: 0132392267
Description: The revised edition of this book contains thirty-eight ready-to-use activities, covering topics from the night sky to universal expansion (here’s a topic list) This edition adds several activities to the light & spectroscopy section, an especially good unit of this book. The book is designed mainly for one-semester surveys of astronomy that focus on stars and galaxies. There are only a few activities directly related to comparative planetology (however, an intro planets class could make use of Karen Kortz's geology tutorials linked below). The authors have openly expressed that the activity topics reflect their own curriculum preference. I would like to see more activities in stellar evolution and cosmology, but perhaps those will be in a future edition.

Two additional CAPER tutorials, as yet unpublished, in Galactic Rotation Curves and the Greenhouse Effect, are available as locked-downloads to participants of the NASA CAE Teaching Excellence workshops.

Instructor’s Guide for Lecture Tutorials for Introductory Astronomy, 2nd Edition
Author: Ed Prather, Jeff Adams, Daniel Loranz, Gina Brissenden, Timothy Slater, and Larry Watson
Publisher: Addison-Wesley
Year: 2008
ISBN: 0321558243
Description: So you've got a copy of the Lecture Tutorials book and you want to use it in your class. How do you effectively implement the activities. What are the common difficulties that students have with the questions? That what this guide is for. It is a protected download from the publisher's website, so you need to get a login from your Addison-Wesley book representative. Do it now! I am always amazed at the number of people who don't know about this resource. The book contains answers to the questions, but more importantly it has pre- and post-questions for the activities in the multiple-choice "clicker" format, ready to use in lecture.

EDIT, 12.17.07: The above link and description has been updated to reflect the availability of the updated instructor's guide.

Astronomy Active Learning In-Class Tutorials
Author: Marvin L. De Jong
Publisher: Addison-Wesley
Year: 2006
ISBN: 0805382968
Description: Before the physics and astronomy books from the Prentice Hall division was absorbed into Addison-Wesley (I’m only speaking half facetiously when I say that all academic book publishers will turn into one eventually), Addison-Wesley published this odd little book, as a supplement to Bennett’s Cosmic Perspective text. My general impression is that this title was produced to compete with the CAPER tutorials book when it was part of Prentice Hall. It contains FIFTY activities, which are described by the author as “lecture tutorials”, however I find them to be a higher difficulty level than the CAPER book. The font of the book is small and there is barely any room for students to write in the spaces meant for “explanations.” Many of the tutorials ask for mathematical calculations. Many of the questions are not useful for higher-level processing, because they are just asking for declarative knowledge. That said, I have found several of the activities useful as LAB activities, if adapted properly. One particularly well presented activity is the one on using Cepheid Variables as standard candles. Another good activity is the one on finding the center of the galaxy using the distribution of globular clusters. I do like how De Jong uses real observational data in the activities. If you can get a copy of this book, you too might be able to adapt some of the activities to a workable classroom tutorial or lab.

Tutorials by P.E. Robinson
Year: 2006-2007
Description: To fill in the gaps of the CAPER tutorial book, I have written a few tutorials. Main Sequence Stars is an activity that leads students through the process of a main sequence star becoming a red giant. Early Universe Light is a tutorial that examines the production of the CMB. Interplanetary Travel is an activity on using least-energy orbits to send spacecraft to other planets. Interplanetary Travel is most suited to more advanced groups (it involves a few basic calculations). I give permission to print and copy these tutorials, provided that they are not changed and retain my authorship. If you do use these activities, please give me feedback! They are works in progress, and I am still modifying them after implementing them in the classroom. I am working on other tutorials, and will post them here when I have tested them with students.

Introductory Geology Lecture Tutorials
Author: Karen M. Kortz and Jessica J. Smay
Year: 2007
Description: Geology instructor Karen Kortz has developed a set of thirteen tutorials, modelled after the CAPER activities, for introductory geology. Several of these could help fill the gaps in planetary science in the CAPER book. I have not used these in the classroom, but after reading through them, I think they appear well written and class-ready! If you have used them, comment below with your experiences.

Lecture Tutorials for Physics

Tutorials In Introductory Physics and Homework Package
Authors: Lillian C. McDermott, Peter S. Shaffer, and the Physics Education Group of the University of Washington
Publisher: Addison-Wesley
Year: 2002
ISBN: 0130970697
Description: The Physics Education Group at the University of Washington developed a comprehensive set of lecture tutorials for a two-semester sequence in introductory physics. Topics range from kinematics to E&M. The main tutorial book has an accompanying book with homework exercises that can be used to reinforce the tutorial concepts. Several of the activities require the use of some simple equipment, such as kinematic "ticker-tape" for acceleration concepts.

Instructor's Guide (for Tutorials in Introductory Physics)
Author: Lillian C. McDermott
Publisher: Addison-Wesley
Year: 2002
ISBN: 0130662445
Description: Like the instructor’s guide to the astronomy tutorials, this book contains sample pre-test and exam questions and information about how to best run the activities.

References Mentioned Above

Prather, E. E., Slater, T. F., Adams, J. P., Bailey, J. M., Jones, L. V., & Dostal, J. A. 2003, "Research on a Lecture-Tutorial Approach to Teaching Introductory Astronomy for Non-Science Majors," Astronomy Education Review, 3(2), 122.

Brogt, Erik. 2007, “A Theoretical Background on a Successful Implementation of Lecture-Tutorials,” Astronomy Education Review, 6(1), 50-58.

Hake, R.R. "Interactive-engagement versus traditional methods: A six-thousand-student survey of mechanics test data for introductory physics courses ". American Journal of Physics, 66, pg.64-74


Jessica said...

Thanks for the links to your own activities. I've been considering using the Prather/Slater book in future semesters, but their star evolution activity doesn't emphasize what I want students to remember about star evolution. Your Main Sequence stars activity asks the kinds of questions I'd like my students to be able to answer on an exam.

P.E. Robinson said...

Jessica, thanks for the comment :-)

My "Main Sequence Stars" tutorial is meant to go between the "Star Formation & Lifetimes" and "Stellar Evolution" tutorials from the CAPER book. I would like to add on to it to include a little more details about red giant stars, but I have pared it down from a larger (and more complicated) version that I started with.

CAPER's "Stellar Evolution" tutorial is quite good, in my opinion. It is deceptively simple, and having run it with students many times, I know it really helps them with the concept of evolutionary order. So I guess what I'm saying is, give it a try because you'll probably find it to be a worthwhile activity.

Michael said...

An updated instructor's guide for Lecture Tutorials in Introductory Astronomy, 2/E, by Ed Prather and friends is available for downloading from the Addison-Wesley
web site.

P.E. Robinson said...

Thanks for the tip! I updated the link and the description.

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