What's Important in this Course?

My most frequent email request is "I'm confused, what should I study?". Which I read to mean "I think I'm going to fail, what should I study to get a B?". This is a science concept course with the forum being the astronomy. I plan our course to be a rich mixture of physics, chemistry, geology and math (ah!), just as the field of astronomy is. My goal, for you as bright students interested in this aspect of our culture, is to expose you to the ideas and methods of astronomy. I consider our course, and your path to understanding, to be composed of three levels.

  • Level 1: Knowing Facts
  • Level 2: Understanding Concepts
  • Level 3: Linking Concepts

    I expect you to be armed with the facts of the courses in order to dive into the concepts. For example, an important fact is that the core of the Earth is composed of Fe and Ni, thus the origin of our magnetic field. A concept from this is that gravity caused the heavy elements to sink to the core of the Earth, making this core. An example of a linking concept is to know that Mars has a lighter gravity and does not have an Fe core.

    Interestingly enough, the above levels also reflecting the grade scheme for the course. If you know just the facts you are doing passable work. If you understand concepts your are doing good work. If you can work the concepts (i.e. think) you are doing superior work. Our course is specifically designed to induce learning in the form of linking concepts. I am aiming for everyone to do superior work but the level of effort is up to the individual. Study groups have been shown to be extremely valuable to the learning process, when they work. Two basic things to remember about groups, if you are the member of a successful group that improves your understanding of a course, work hard within the group. Every amount to add to the group will be returned manyfold. On the other hand, if the group is not helping you, dump. Don't worry about hurting your group members feelings, this is a business decision and the group will be better off without you if your contribution is minimal.

    If you would like to join a study group, but can't get started, email me. I will start collecting a list of names interested in a study group and put you in contact with each other.

    Remember what President Reagan said `Trust, but verify'. He was speaking about nuclear arms, but with respect to study groups you should trust in your fellow group members to complete their share of their work. But, this does not divorce you from the responsiblity for checking the quality of their work, and making sure you also understand its meaning.