Terry R Richardson
         Senior Instructor, Dept. of Physics and Astronomy

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My Teaching Philosophy



An Invitation

Welcome to the Monkey House! That phrase is not only the title of a Vonnegut book of short stories but also a great paradigm for an invitation to the study of astronomy. It is a crazy, strange, bizarre and beautiful universe out there. Wickedly awesome some of you might say. We have both signed on together for a semester or more of study of the universe. And the thing about this universe is we are all a part of it and none of us are going to get out of it alive! So I invite you to learn with me something about our universe while we are here together for a while.


The Importance Of What We Are Doing

This course directly addresses a number of objectives explicitly set out in the Statement of Institutional Goals of the College, but most especially this class helps a student enhance critical thinking and problem solving skills as well as developing a greater global awareness. For some of you this class may be your last science class in college. Do I hear cheers in the background? Science and our society are forever intertwined. Now more than every our country and the world community need solid, objective science as a tool for solving big problems. As thinking, voting members of this country in the 21st century each of us needs an understanding of the natural sciences and a consciousness of the scientific issues of the time in order to do our job as citizens. This course will serve those goals. After this course you will know more about science than many politicians appear to.


My Teaching Philosophy

Telling is not teaching. Learning occurs when we are challenged to think, to resolve conflict or confusion. Learning occurs as we repeat an unfamiliar process and make the process familiar. Internalization of learning results from action on the student's part. Learning occurs when we sort through information looking for connections, patterns or discrepancies. My class will be an active class in which there is dialogue-professor to student, student to professor and student to student. We will understand the natural world as it applies both to astronomy and to our everyday lives by performing simple experiments and analyzing the results of those experiments. Recalling facts or recognizing definitions of concepts is the lowest level of learning. Some recall of basic facts is necessary in any field but is only a very small part of my goal for this class. I want the course to foster your ability to master comprehension of concepts of science and apply them to different situations. At the end of the semester I expect my students to analyze complex situations using the concepts we have mastered. I want the course to enable my students to synthesize results based on current knowledge and to evaluate the validity of results in terms of the principles we study.


What Are My Expectations?

First I expect you are a lot smarter about science than you think you are; however your inexperience keeps you from a better understanding of the natural world. I expect to assist you in changing that situation. I expect that I will prepare a careful plan for each and every class this semester. I expect my students to attend each and every class having completed the assigned reading or videos for that class so as to be prepared for our work of the day.


So Lets Go!

You will get only as much out of this opportunity as you put into it. I am putting a lot into your course, but it is you who has to decide for yourself what the experience will be like. If you are someone who likes to be lectured to about facts and then tested on those facts, I probably already have you way outside of your comfort zone. My knowledge of astronomy is vast and I could come to every class without preparation and do just that–lecture for an hour. Occasionally you might be entertained by the ideas, but you would benefit little aside from marking one more course off the gen ed list for graduation. I want our time together to be beneficial to you and I will work to provide you with just such an experience.