Friday, February 20, 2009

Shaping Attitudes Toward Science in an Introductory Astronomy Class

Here's a rather brief but interesting paper. Maybe students can have a very effective and positive attitude towards science from taking just one class in astronomy!

At many universities, astronomy is a popular way for non-science majors to fulfill a general education requirement. Because general-education astronomy may be the only college-level science course taken by these students, it is the last chance to shape the science attitudes of these future journalists, teachers, politicians, and voters. I report on an attempt to measure and induce changes in science attitudes in my general-education astronomy course. I describe construction of the attitude survey, classroom activities designed to influence attitudes, and give numerical results indicating a significant improvement. In contrast, the literature on attitudes in introductory physics courses generally reports stagnation or decline. I briefly comment on some plausible explanations for this difference.

I think, and I truly believe this, that it really doesn't matter if it is astronomy, chemistry, physics, etc. It has more to do with the quality of the teaching, and the instructor him/herself. I have met instructors who are so talented, they could read a phone book and make it mesmerizing, and on the other end, I've encountered instructors who can make the most fascinating material sound downright dry and boring. Until and unless scientists and college instructors realize that it is THEY who hold the biggest influence in shaping a student's attitude towards physics, things will simply continue the way they are regardless of all the modern instruction techniques that everyone seems to be introducing.


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