ASTR 500 A: Practical Methods for Teaching Astronomy

Autumn 2021
to be arranged / * *
Section Type:
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

Astronomy 500 - Practical Methods for Teaching

NMKelly.JPG  Instructor: Nicole Kelly, PhD, Lecturer

Refer to the About Your Instructor page for email, office hours, etc.

Course Introduction

I've designed this course to provide both upper-level undergraduate and graduate students with useful and practical guidance on how to become an effective instructor.

We use the subject of astronomy and our astronomy quiz sections to demonstrate various teaching strategies, but what you learn here should translate to any field you may find yourself teaching in. 

My main goal is to pass along what research and practice has shown to be the most effective way to help students learn, not to provide you with a one-size-fits-all teaching guide.  My hope is that you will use the information provided in this course to tailor your own teaching style in a way that works well for both you and your students.  You'll learn how to incorporate the latest pedagogical approaches to active teaching/learning and also how to deal with the unique challenges faced by new graduate student or faculty teachers in the modern classroom.

Official Course Catalog Description

Seminar in the preparation of lecture and workshop materials with emphasis on demonstration, visual aids, and the evaluation of student's progress.  Credit/no credit only.

Learning Goals

Students can expect to acquire a solid foundation for teaching undergraduates, a foundation that they can use to continue to build their teaching expertise.  This foundation will include basic course content (syllabus, assessments), including opportunities for active participation and group work, lecturing techniques, evaluating student progress, helping students learn, and designing and implementing learning objectives.  

This is a one credit course.  You are graded on a credit (C) /no-credit (NC) scale.  Below I describe the minimum expectations for credit in this class. If you are a second year (or higher) graduate student or already have some teaching experience, I strongly encourage you to consider some of the "extra" credit options I describe!

Minimum expectations for credit (C) in this course

  • Attend 4 one-on-one meetings with the Instructor
  • Create and use a course syllabus
  • Incorporate into sections, several teaching strategies and techniques discussed in Instructor meetings
  • Attend two sections of a fellow TA and give them constructive feedback
  • Participate in a few (1-2) online discussions

"Extra" Credit Activities

  • Begin to prepare a Teaching Portfolio/Dossier
    • draft a teaching philosophy
    • design a mini (20min) lecture on a topic of interest w/ slides
  • Design and develop a blueprint for a full course including a lesson plan, scaffolded learning goals, and outcomes (I have an outline for you to follow)
  • Design effective quiz and exam questions for ASTR 101 or ASTR 150

Students should expect, at a minimum, to do some reading and thinking about their teaching goals and be prepared to  apply some of what is learned and discussed in meeting to section teaching, prepare a section syllabus.

Learning Outcomes

After completion of this course the student will have

  • created a syllabus for a course, including "the essential components of a well designed syllabus"
  • started to formulate a teaching philosophy (an important component of a teaching portfolio) and proceed to build upon it.
  • gained practice in organizing and monitoring students and peer learning in the classroom
  • recognized the importance of assessments of students learning within lecture/sections
  • been introduced to Bloom's taxonomy of educational objectives and the flexibility and support they provide
  • reviewed methods in writing examinations, grading techniques, policies on cheating and plagiarism at the UW, and how to handle problem cases
  • reviewed and discussed the importance of effective teaching in both academia and beyond 

If you would like to go beyond what is asked in this course you could also have the beginnings of a Teaching Dossier with:

  • a statement of your teaching philosophy, experiences and professional development goals
  • a small but complete component of a lesson
  • a list of exercises or activities or homeworks that reinforces these objectives
  • a formal lecture for a specific sub-topic in astronomy, with objectives, assessment, participation built-in
  • an exercise or questions to accompany the lecture
  • student self-study questions for the lecture
  • examination questions for this course adhering to Bloom's taxonomy
  • a long list of web and text resources

If you are interested in this "extra" information, please let your Instructor know in your first meeting.


The course is graded credit (C)/no-credit (NC).  Show up to meetings, participate, and attempt to incorporate what you've learned into your sections and you'll be just fine!  

Additional Resources

Catalog Description:
Seminar in the preparation of lecture and workshop materials with emphasis on demonstration, visual aids, and the evaluation of students' progress.
Last updated:
June 15, 2024 - 12:44 am