August 11, 2015

Astro-journal assignment for introductory astronomy

About a month ago I mentioned on twitter that I assign all my astronomy students to do an astro-journal. This has been a long running assignment since right after I started teaching astronomy over ten years ago.  I wanted something that would help students see that they can go from not really understanding much about the science of astronomy to becoming comfortable with the vocabulary and concepts related to the study of the cosmos. Additionally, I wanted students to be able to understand and predict how moon phases work as well as seeing that the study of space is something that is often in the news. (Why space is popular in the press is an interesting conversation to have with a class. I love when a student raises this question.)

One part of the astro-journal that I have retired from using is the "Adopt a space mission" assignment. I used to have students choose (or have assigned to them) an active space mission (unmanned) that they "adopt" and follow throughout the semester. I think it was often a valuable addition to the journal, but when we only meet twice a week, it becomes difficult to squeeze in class discussions about the space missions.

Here is the description that I have been giving my students for how to construct their astro-journal.

"By far the single most significant part of your grade will be made up by the score that you get on the astro-journal. The reason that this assignment is so heavily weighted is that I believe that it has the largest impact on your learning of the topics we are covering in astronomy, astrophysics, cosmology, and space science. 
You need to establish a notebook or binder that is separate from the notebook that you use to take notes in class or while you are studying at home. You should start your astro-journal immediately.
Periodically your journal will be checked for progress. You will need to bring your journal to class in order for it to be checked. Each of the check-ins will count as a part of the evaluation of the journal. 
Your astro-journal will consist of two main parts and an optional third part. One part is a recording of your observations of the Moon. We will cover how to make these observations in class. The other main part of the journal is a record of your reading on current events in astronomy and space news. You need to find and read news stories from reputable sources, then summarize these news stories in your own words and write a brief reflection on what the news stories are covering. The optional part of the astro-journal is a section on ANYTHING else that you see in your daily life that relates to astronomy. 
A rubric is posted to the course website that explains how it is graded. Please let me know if you have any questions about the grading of the astro-journal."

Here is the last rubric that I used for the astro-journal project before I switched over to using a standards-based assessment and reporting (SBAR) method of assessment.  Really, the SBAR approach used the rubric as a starting place, just the point values were discarded. (Sorry if the formatting is weird here.)

Astro-Journal Rubric Name:___________________________________
This rubric is inserted into your journal. You have visited the professor's office to show this.

0-1 points
Journal check 1
Professor checks journal in his office during weeks 3 & 4

0-2 points
Journal check 2
Professor checks journal in his office during weeks 6 & 7

0-2 point
Moon Observations
AccuracyPhase drawn incorrectly; direction missing or wrong; time of observation missing or wrong; altitude missing or wrong; unphysical observation recorded & many indications of faked observations.

0-5 points
Moon phases generally drawn correctly. Occasional incorrect recording of direction, altitude, time. Horizon missing or unclear. Some indications of false (faked) observations.

6-18 points
Moon phase consistently drawn correctly. Accurate observations of direction, time, altitude. Horizon clearly drawn in all entries.

19 points
CompletenessLess than one accurate observation per week on average.

0-3 points
1-3 accurate observations per week on average.

3-18 points
3 or more accurate observations per week on average.

19 points
NeatnessObservations hard to decipher. Phases not drawn clearly. Records not organized in logical manner.

0-3 points
Observations are sometimes inconsistent and/or occasionally difficult to understand.

2-8 points
Observations easy to read and understand. Clear drawings. Logical organization & demonstrates creativity.

9 points
Current Events
AccuracyEntries include unphysical or scientifically wrong ideas. Entries out of date, with no context provided. Sources not cited or incorrect.

0-5 points
Entries are appropriate and relevant. Sources are listed, but not always cited correctly, completely, and consistently.

5-9 points
Entries are appropriate and relevant. Sources cited correctly, completely and consistently.

10 points
CompletenessLess than one entry per week on average. Most assigned entries & topics missing.

0-5 points
1-2 entries per week on average. Some assigned entries & topics missing.

6-16 points
2-3 entries per week on average. All assigned entries & topics included.

17-19 points
NeatnessEntries nothing more than copies or printouts of articles. No reflection is included. Organization is lacking or nonexistant.

0-4 points
Entries include partial information and partial personal reflection or no personal reflection is included. Organization is consistent and logical.

3-16 points
All entries include your own summary of the article or news item and a personal reflection. Organization is consistent and logical. Presentation of entries demonstrates creativity.

17-19 points

Anything else that you notice or observe that relates to or reminds you of astronomy throughout the semester.

Up to 15 bonus points.

I'm happy to share any of the original resources if you'd like them emailed to you, just let me know.

No comments: