Astronomy 301 - Fall 2010
INTRODUCTION TO ASTRONOMY
MWF 9-10 · WEL 3.502 · Unique No. 47635
RLM 15.318 · M 2:15-3:15, T 2:15-3:15, or after class, or by phone · (512) 471-6446 · email
Course Prerequisites: None.
Grading: 90% of your grade is based on exams, 10% on pop-quizzes (see below). "Homework" is not turned in but contributes to exam scores (see below for explanation).
Exams: 90% of your grade will be based on 7 exams (about one every two weeks, beginning with Exam 1, Friday, Sept 10). All exams will be weighted equally except that your lowest exam score will only receive a weight of 1/2 compared to the others. So you have to take all the exams, but if you have an off day (or week, etc.) it won’t hurt your final grade too much. The topics and dates of the exams are listed on the last page. In case there are any errors or emergency changes, they will be announced heavily in class and at the class website, but outside of these, the exam dates are firm.
There will be no comprehensive final.
The exams will consist entirely of multiple choice questions. I will prepare you for the nature of the exam questions by occasionally giving sample questions during lectures, by pointing out the types of information that I expect you to understand or remember, and giving examples on review sheets. There is a good multiple choice interactive self-testing part of the text web site that I urge you to use (you need an access code), since the exam questions will be of that form, and some will be taken from this source. I will suggest which questions to try as we finish each chapter.
In case of medical or other non-academic emergencies or situations, contact me as early as possible—it may be possible for you to take an exam a day or so early or late in these cases (but not for academic reasons).
We will try to return exam grades through the UT Blackboard system within one or two days of the day of the exam. You will turn in your exams, but can compare your answers with an exam marked with correct answers, located at the back of the classroom, a couple of days later. For this reason, you should record your answers (e.g. 15a, 16d, …) on a separate piece of paper before you turn in the exam. Take time to carefully compare your answers with the correct answer--this is often good preparation for the next exam.
Homework: There is homework in this class, but it won’t be turned in. Instead the homework consists of a subset of the questions at the end of each chapter and especially on the interactive multiple choice self-testing part of the text web site. The purposes of the homework are to give you a way of testing your understanding of the material, to provide a guide to the most important concepts, and to force you to keep up with the material. Although the homework will not be turned in, they are “graded” in the sense that some of them appear on exams; you will probably find that your exam grades suffer significantly if you do not attempt to work through these assignments. I may distribute the homework questions through Blackboard instead of the course web site; you will receive email announcements if this is the case.
Quizzes: I will give a series of short (~ 2-3 min) quizzes that will consist of simple questions covering the material you should have read before class and that was covered in the previous lecture. These quizzes will be coarsely graded as 3 (exceptionally clear answer), 2 (adequate answer), 1 (you answered, but incorrect), or 0 (not turned in). Quizzes are intended to force you to keep up with the reading (difference between a 1 and 2), and because many students prefer not to have their entire grade determined by long and (more difficult) exams. In this way, a student can be steadily earning credit through other means. Expect about 5-10 of these through the semester, perhaps more frequent during the last half of the semester. You will just turn in a piece of your own paper with your name and answer. Ten percent of your grade will be based on these quizzes. For the three semesters that I have used quizzes in this way I found that they did make a significant difference for many students, either in a positive or negative sense. The quiz scores raised the final letter grade for about five percent of the class. Many of these were borderline cases whose consistenly good quiz scores pushed them over to the next highest grade. More common were students who apparently rarely attended class, so had a string of zeros, and received grades lower than they would have based on exams alone. Remember that this is 10 percent of your grade, approximately one letter grade, so you cannot afford to miss more than a few of them before having a (slightly) negative effect.