Department of Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy

Queen's University
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Department of Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy
Department of Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy

Departmental Colloquium- Introductory Science: Teaching Critical Thinking, Inquiry, and Discovery

Michael Reid,
(Univ. of Toronto)

October 30th, 2015
1:30 p.m. in Theatre A


Universities should be places where students expand their capacities for critical thinking, inquiry, discovery, and metacognition.  However, too often we wind up forcing students simply to memorize "somebody else's answers to somebody else's questions."* Introductory science classes tend to reinforce students' pre-existing attitudes about science, namely that it is boring, difficult, and intensely mathematical. My goal for the last six years has been to find ways to make astronomy accessible to everyone, in large part by getting my students to take a more active role in their own learning.  I take the same approach to science literacy that we take to reading literacy: a scientifically illiterate student is a crisis that needs special intervention, not an acceptable loss. I'll report on some recent results, including a pilot project to teach astronomy to non-science students by giving them the freedom to use professional-grade remote telescopes to explore the cosmos as part of a structured, inquiry-based curriculum.

* Postman and Weingartner, Teaching as a Subversive Activity