Using Think-Pair-Share & Peer Instruction Voting “Clicker” Questions for Teaching Investigating Astronomy

Windsor “Tony” Morgan & Tim Slater

A basic step faculty moving toward inclusive active learning take is often to start asking students questions.  Although this might initially sound simplistic, for many faculty, this is a risky step in relinquishing control and authority.  Especially in large classes where enrollments exceed 50, 100, 200 or even 500 students in a single lecture auditorium, faculty are naturally concerned that chaos can take over or, perhaps worse, that an uncomfortable silence will pervade the room for a few awkward seconds.

A number of well researched and easy-to-implement strategies exist for faculty to manage student behavior in the context of asking students questions in a lecture-setting. Taken together, the consensus of experienced master teachers is that students largely cooperate when students (i) know what behavioral norms are expected of them; (ii) believe that the activity will have verifiable improvement on their course grades; and (iii) perceive that the activity as part of a larger, explicit, and well-conceived learning plan the professor is implementing for the students’ benefit. By and large, asking students questions works best when professors have a pre-determined question displayed for students to read and, furthermore, that professors nurture at least 10-seconds of silent, soak-time for students to quietly consider their responses individually before any answers or rationale are discussed. This approach is known as Peer-Instruction in Physics, but elsewhere by its more common name of “think-pair-share.”

The number of professors who now pose questions to students during class—particularly in large enrollment classes—has increased dramatically in recent years due to a virally widespread teaching technology innovation known colloquially as “the clicker.”  A “clicker” is a wireless, hand-held, personal response device resembling a television remote controller that allows professors to systematically collect students’ responses to multiple-choice style question, much like capturing votes during an opinion poll.  For a number of reasons, it could be argued that voting “clicker” questioning-techniques are perhaps the most wide-spread, college teaching innovation of this Century. 

So, how do you use this “clicker” approach in your astronomy classroom? That’s what the free, downloadable resources on this website are all about. Don’t want to take the time to download? No problem, you can buy the hard-copy, printed book on Amazon by clicking here.

Download the “HOW TO” implementation manual and classroom-ready voting questions aligned with Slater, Heyer, & Slater’s Investigating Astronomy by clicking your preferred file type (.PDF or .docx). No cost, no sign-ups, no advertisements, no viruses - just another free teaching resource from the fine folks at the Center for Astronomy & Physics Education Research CAPER Team. [if you are teaching with OpenStax Astronomy, check out this OpenStax TPS book instead!)

  • Download the .PDF or .docx file


     Chp 1. Predicting the Motions of the Stars, Sun, and Moon

    Chp 2. Decoding the Hidden Messages in Starlight

    Chp 3. Analyzing Scales and Motions of the Universe

    Chp 4. Exploring Our Evolving Solar System

    Chp 5. Uncovering Earth’s System s

    Chp 6. Exploring Terrestrial Surface Processes and Atmospheres

    Chp 7. Observing the Dynamic Giant Planets)

    Chp 8. Looking for Life beyond Earth)

    Chp 9. Probing the Dynamic Sun

    Chp 10. Observing Properties of Distant Stars

    Chp 11. Inferring Patterns in Star Life Cycles

    Chp 12. Predicting the Violent End of the Largest Stars

    Chp 13. Exploring Our Galaxy

    Chp 14. Investigating Other Galaxies

    Chp 15. Observing the Evolution of the Universe

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