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Our place-in-the-Universe: Place-centered teaching and learning practices in introductory undergraduate astronomy education

Published onJun 01, 2020
Our place-in-the-Universe: Place-centered teaching and learning practices in introductory undergraduate astronomy education

Introductory undergraduate astronomy courses are often designed to teach students disciplinary concepts and practices. Recently, educational scholarship has advocated for expanding traditional notions of discipline. Influenced by educational scholarship on placemaking — wherein students explore disciplinary concepts and practices in connection to the time and place they live — I describe changes I incorporated to an introductory astronomy course during the Spring 2020 semester. Centering the objective of making one’s place-in-the-Universe had the effect of decentering traditional disciplinary concept and practice objectives. Course assignments focused on limits to astronomical observation, in which students learned how their own and other global and space-based positions influenced astronomical observation. These assignments enabled students’ deliberation and development of a position regarding present day concerns of the astronomy community, including whether telescopes should be built on indigenous landscapes and whether there should be a global satellite network. I argue that place-based education may be useful to those astronomy educators interested in prompting students’ awareness about their present-day influence and possibility in effectuating world dynamics.

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