February 9, 2017 - 12:00 am
In 1969, more than 500 million people tuned in worldwide to watch Apollo 11 land on the Moon. Forty-three years later, though the population of the world had doubled and TV could be live-streamed to your pocket, only about 5 million people watched the Curiosity rover land on Mars. Do these kinds of statistics evince a worrying decline in curiosity? Are we now more interested in Pokemon GO or the Super Bowl halftime show than in interplanetary exploration? In this talk, I will discuss my experience of teaching the largest non-specialist undergraduate astronomy course in Canada. I’ll relate what I’ve learned about my students’ motives for choosing to study a subject that has little or no practical use. I’ll discuss why I think that we need to shift our teaching methods toward a more student-centred, curiosity-based pedagogy—and why people have been saying this since before that Apollo 11 landing!
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