Connecting campuses to promote excellence in math and science


Jeff Wilkerson

Luther College
Results From a Concept Inventory Administered in a General Astronomy Course
Each fall 60 to 70 Luther College students take a general astronomy course designed primarily for students majoring in disciplines outside the natural sciences. These students typically use the course to fulfill an all-college laboratory science requirement. Students attend three one-hour lecture/discussion meetings each week and one two-hour laboratory, with each laboratory section holding approximately one-third of the students. The course takes a historical approach, focusing primarily on the development of the field from Brahe and Kepler through the 20th century. We have been administering the Light and Spectroscopy Concept Inventory pre-course and post-course. Students demonstrate a growth in conceptual understanding typical of courses of this type. There is a significant gender disparity in performance on the exam but not in course performance. Upper-division students outperform first-year students on questions requiring more conceptualization, consistent with growth in reasoning ability while at college. I will present detailed performance results, comparing them to published results and discuss what these results might suggest for planning such courses and placing those courses within a general education curriculum.
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