Great Expectations

Courtesy of Dr. Ron Theys of University of Wisconsin at Fond du Lac (with modifications from his chemistry course for Astronomy B1, B2, B3)

Welcome to Astronomy B1, B2 or B3! 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 to learn on your own, outside the classroom. This 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 high school. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. It is your responsibility to learn the material. Lecture time is at a premium, so it must be used efficiently. You cannot be taught everything 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. [One of our former college presidents at Bakersfield College noted in a article in the student newspaper that students should expect to study two hours every day for each class if they want to succeed---it is a fact he told me that he had to learn the hard way.]
  4. The instructor’s job is to provide a framework to guide you in doing your learning of the concepts and methods that make up the material of the course. The professor’s job is not to program you with isolated facts and problems, nor to monitor your progress.
  5. 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 often be slow-going and careful. However, there is the clear advantage that you can read at your own pace.

SMU's "How is College Different from High School" is a very nice table of the contrasts between high school and college ways of doing things. The table categorizes the contrasts into four basic areas: following the rules in high school vs. choosing responsibly in college; going to high school classes vs. succeeding in college classes; high school teachers vs. college professors; tests in high school vs. tests in college; and grades in high school vs. grades in college.

Other High School vs. College contrasts include:

Luann comic strip's take on high school vs. college

Some helpful hints for success in Astronomy B1, B2, B3

Strategies for doing well during the semester:

  1. Keep up. This sounds obvious, but it’s easy to fall behind during a busy week and very hard to catch up.
  2. 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 book beforehand, 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 of class.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 that you 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. Using a note-taking format in which you leave space to fill in any extra details later may help in this regard. 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.
  5. 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 able 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 question.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Two things you should avoid doing:
    1. 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. Remember 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.
    2. 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.

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last updated: February 7, 2015

Is this page a copy of Strobel's Astronomy Notes?

Author of original content: Nick Strobel