Courtesy of Dr.
Theys of University of Wisconsin at Fond du Lac (with modifications from
his chemistry course for Astronomy 1,2,3)
Welcome to Astronomy 1, 2 or 3! As college students, there will be many expectations
placed upon you and this class will have several expectations of its own. Here
at Bakersfield College, as at many colleges and universities, we have many
goals, the most important of which is to teach you to learn. You must learn
is the main feature that distinguished college from high school. This handout
contains expectations that I, as your instructor, have for you, and that you
should have for yourself. Also included are some helpful hints on how to study
and learn effectively, not only in this class, but as you continue your education
and your life.
The main goal of high school was to prepare you to graduate from high
school, not to prepare you for college. This is a significant difference
that can take new students a semester or two to figure out (especially those
fresh from high school who see a community college as a "fifth year" of
high school). The important thing to realize is that most of you were taught
well below the level at which you are capable of learning when you were in
This may not seem true to you, but the fact is many of the students
who were in high school classes had no college plans and the level of the classes
had to suit all of you. This forced the teachers to teach at a level below
your capabilities. This is the underlying premise to the facts below, taken
from an article and orientation
materials written by Steven
Zucker, a math
professor at Johns Hopkins University.
- You are no longer in high school. The majority of you will have to discard
high school notions of teaching and learning and replace them with university-level
notions. This may be difficult, but it has to happen sooner or later, so
sooner is better. Our goal is more than getting you to reproduce what was
told to you in the classroom.
- Expect to have material covered at two to three times the pace
of high school. Above that, we aim for a greater command of the
material, especially the ability to apply what you have learned to new
situations when relevant.
- It is your responsibility to learn the material. Lecture
time is at a premium, so it must be used efficiently. You cannot be taught
in the classroom. Most of the learning must take place outside the classroom.
You should expect to put in at least three hours outside the classroom
for each hour of class. [Our college president at Bakersfield College noted
in a recent
article in the student newspaper that students should expect
to study two hours every
each class if they want to succeed---it is a fact he told me that he had
to learn the hard way.]
- The instructor’s job is to provide a framework to
guide you in doing your learning of the concepts and methods that make up
course. The professor’s job is not to program you with isolated facts
and problems, nor to monitor your progress.
- You are expected to read the textbook
for comprehension. The text gives the detailed account of the material
of the course. It also contains many
examples of problems worked out, and should be used to supplement those
you see in the lecture. The textbook is not a novel, so the reading must
be slow-going and careful. However, there is the clear advantage that you
can read at your own pace.
Some helpful hints for success in Astronomy 1,2,3
Strategies for doing well during the semester:
- Keep up. This sounds obvious, but it’s easy to fall behind during
a busy week and very hard to catch up.
- Read the book. Read the appropriate
sections of the book before coming to lecture. The lecture outlines in the
Student Guide you purchased are designed to make this a fairly simple
process, with specific readings given for each lecture. Read with a pencil
and paper in hand and work through the review questions in the text. Having
done these two things, you will come prepared for class. Then the faster
paced college-style lecture will make more sense. If you cannot read the
try to pick up what you can from lecture, which will be considerably more
difficult to follow, and count on sorting it out later while studying from
the book outside
- Ask questions during lecture if something is unclear or seems different
from what you read in the text. It is easy to forget a question
later, and it is likely that other students have the same question that you
do at the
time the topic is discussed in the lecture.
- Go through your notes as soon
as possible after each lecture. This may sound like a waste of time,
but making sure your notes make enough sense
can follow them is important (especially when you need to review them for
the exam several weeks later). Doing this while the information is fresh
in your brain is helpful because you’ll
be more able to recognize where something is missing or unclear in your notes.
in which you leave space to fill in any extra details later may help in this
If there are parts of your notes that you don’t understand, ask now.
The lecture outlines in the Student Guide help you hone on the key ideas of
the lectures and they have visual cues to what you should write down.
- Read through the review questions at the end of each section in
the textbook before you read the main part of the section and then write
out answers to
the review questions in your own words after you have read the textbook
section. Being able to articulate a concept in your own words means
that you have actually learned and internalized the material---you will be
to apply the concept on the exam and final exam. If you do not know how to
begin to answer the review question, then go back to and reread the section
in the text related to the concept before making another attempt at the review
- Form a study group. Study groups are most effective when
all the members study and work out problems ahead of time then get together
to discuss any
questions they had during the process. Having a member of a study group who
does not prepare ahead of time causes problems in the group. Don’t
be afraid to ask such a member of your group to either begin taking more
responsibility or find a different group. Slacker students who try to get other
students to do the learning for them will do miserably on the exams and probably
flunk the class.
- Take advantage of the professor’s office hours. These times tend
to be a peaceful part of any professor’s day since students rarely
take the opportunity to come in and go over problems.
- Use the quiz and homework keys when studying for the exams (including
the final exam). They are available at the Library's front circulation counter.
Be sure you can articulate why an answer on the quiz was the correct one
in your own words.
- Use the Learning Center for help: Basic Skills Computer
Lab has very user-friendly software to help with your math and grammar. They
also have peer tutoring. There are usually one or two astronomy-specific
tutors, and several math and physics tutors. If you have difficulty with
the mathematics, you could ask for a math tutor. If you have difficulty
with a physics concept, you could ask for a physics tutor. Use the
tutors for getting the concepts. Use the computer lab for
getting the practice. The Learning Center also has three-week
mini-courses (Academic Development B70 series) to
help you move from high school mode to the much more demanding college mode.
- Two things you should avoid doing:
- Do NOT plan to do all your studying at one sitting. Cramming
may sometimes be effective when you need to memorize something, but is
a poor technique
for learning material (yes, there is a difference). In this class you
will be applying concepts to new situations not necessarily presented
in lecture. Spending 45 minutes to one hour each day is a much more effective
method to learn.
to start each time you sit down at a different point in the material.
If you start at the beginning each time, you’ll know the first
part really well and not be able to do any of the last part.
- Do NOT get into the habit of reading through the material and
thinking it will stick. Few people can learn from the written
word alone. As mentioned before, working through problems as you study
will help a great deal.
Also, discussing the concepts and problems with a study group or another
individual in the class will help to cement the information in your brain.
Writing the information down, making lists of topics, and writing out
definitions to new terms are often methods that students find useful. Making
and studying with flash cards is helpful in cementing the information.
Textbook "Study Reading"
August 19, 2008
Author of original content: Nick