Resource Guides for Instructors and Students in Introductory College Science Courses
One of the key goals of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) is to make its discoveries and missions accessible to a wide range of educators, students, and the public. To that purpose, SMD has created a series of topical Forums for education and public outreach. The Forums formed a joint working group on Higher Education, which has been looking at two particular issues:
- How SMD can produce materials that are directly useful for instructors of introductory college science courses (such as Astronomy 101)?
- How SMD can better engage undergraduate students from groups that are generally underserved in the sciences, including minorities and women?
The working group commissioned two annotated resource guides from veteran astronomy and space-science educator Andrew Fraknoi (Foothill College) that would address these two issues. One examines the contributions to astronomy by cultures outside of Europe and the U.S mainstream. The other looks at the contributions of women to astronomy, plus the barriers women have faced and the progress they have made in becoming equal partners in the enterprise of astronomical research.
The two guides include material that can be used by instructors to make their lectures and class activities more inclusive, as well as readings and videos that students can use for projects and papers. The materials are mostly non-technical, so they can be used by a wide range of non-science students taking general education courses in the sciences, including those in public community and state colleges, where many future K-12 teachers begin their education.
Instructors and professor who teach such courses often don’t receive much training in taking a multi-cultural perspective and sometimes don’t have many role models who are not white males. Our hope is that the resource guides will allow them to highlight more of the contributions of women and underserved minorities in their classrooms.
This work was led by the Heliophysics Forum (formerly the Sun-Earth Connection Forum), which is also leading a diversity professional development strand within NASA SMD. This Forum is co-led by Multiverse (formerly the Center for Science Education) at the Space Sciences Lab at the University of California at Berkeley, which has always been dedicated to issues of diversity and inclusion. The “Unheard Voices” guides continue and expand that work, making information available to a group of college educators who form such a large and important interface between scientists and the public.
Many astronomers and historians contributed suggestions for materials, and they are listed and thanked at the end of each guide. In addition, we would like to thank Stephanie Stockman (the NASA SMD EPO Program Officer,) the members of the multi-forum Higher Education Working Group, and Laura Peticolas, Karin Hauck, Renee Frappier, and Igor Ruderman of the Multiverse group at the Berkeley Space Sciences Lab for their contributions to the project.