Using Think-Pair-Share & Peer Instruction Voting “Clicker” Questions for Teaching OpenStax 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 our classroom-ready voting questions aligned with OpenStax Astronomy written by Andy Fraknoi, David Morrison, and Sidney Wolff, by 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.

  • Download the .PDF or .docx file


    1. Science and the Universe: A Brief Tour Introduction

    2. Observing the Sky: The Birth of Astronomy

    3. Orbits and Gravity

    4. Earth, Moon, and Sky, Seasons, Moon Phases

    5. Radiation and Spectra

    6. Astronomical Instruments

    7. Other Worlds: An Introduction to the Solar System

    8. Earth as a Planet

    9. Cratered Worlds, Moon, Mercury

    10. Earthlike Planets: Venus and Mars

    11. The Giant Planets

    12. Rings, Moons, and Pluto

    13. Comets and Asteroids: Debris of the Solar System

    14. Cosmic Samples and the Origin of the Solar System

    15. The Sun: A Garden-Variety Star

    16. The Sun: A Nuclear Powerhouse

    17. Analyzing Starlight

    18. The Stars: A Celestial Census

    19. Celestial Distances

    20. Between the Stars: Gas and Dust in Space

    21. The Birth of Stars and the Discovery of Planets outside the Solar System

    22. Stars from Adolescence to Old Age

    23. The Death of Stars

    24. Black Holes and Curved Spacetime

    25. The Milky Way Galaxy

    26. Galaxies

    27. Active Galaxies, Quasars, and Supermassive Black Holes

    28. The Evolution and Distribution of Galaxies

    29. The Big Bang & Early Universe

    30. Life in the Universe

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