An item response theory evaluation of the Light and Spectroscopy Concept Inventory national data set [CL]

This paper presents the first item response theory (IRT) analysis of the national data set on introductory, general education, college-level astronomy teaching using the Light and Spectroscopy Concept Inventory (LSCI). We used the difference between students’ pre- and post-instruction IRT-estimated abilities as a measure of learning gain. This analysis provides deeper insights than prior publications into both the LSCI as an instrument and into the effectiveness of teaching and learning in introductory astronomy courses. Our IRT analysis supports the classical test theory findings of prior studies using the LSCI with this population. In particular, we found that students in classes that used active learning strategies at least 25% of the time had average IRT-estimated learning gains that were approximately 1 logit larger than students in classes that spent less time on active learning strategies. We also found that instructors who want their classes to achieve an improvement in abilities of average $\Delta \theta = 1$ logit must spend at least 25% of class time on active learning strategies. However, our analysis also powerfully illustrates the lack of insight into student learning that is revealed by looking at a single measure of learning gain, such as average $\Delta \theta$. Educators and researchers should also examine the distributions of students’ abilities pre- and post-instruction in order to understand how many students actually achieved an improvement in their abilities and whether or not a majority of students have moved to post-abilities significantly greater than the national average.

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C. Wallace, T. Chambers and E. Prather
Mon, 18 Sep 17

Comments: 14 pages, 60 figures, submitted to Physical Review: Physics Education Research

Discovering New Variable Stars at Key Stage 3 [CL]

Details of the London pilot of the `Discovery Project’ are presented, where university-based astronomers were given the chance to pass on some real and applied knowledge of astronomy to a group of selected secondary school pupils. It was aimed at students in Key Stage 3 of their education, allowing them to be involved in real astronomical research at an early stage of their education, the chance to become the official discoverer of a new variable star, and to be listed in the International Variable Star Index database, all while learning and practising research-level skills. Future plans are discussed.

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K. Chubb, R. Hood, T. Wilson, et. al.
Tue, 25 Jul 17

Comments: 10 pages, 1 figure

Statistical methods in astronomy [CL]

We present a review of data types and statistical methods often encountered in astronomy. The aim is to provide an introduction to statistical applications in astronomy for statisticians and computer scientists. We highlight the complex, often hierarchical, nature of many astronomy inference problems and advocate for cross-disciplinary collaborations to address these challenges.

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J. Long and R. Souza
Thu, 20 Jul 17

Comments: 9 pages, 5 figures

Incorporating Current Research into Formal Higher Education Settings using Astrobites [CL]

A primary goal of many undergraduate- and graduate-level courses in the physical sciences is to prepare students to engage in scientific research, or to prepare students for careers that leverage skillsets similar to those used by research scientists. Even for students who may not intend to pursue a career with these characteristics, exposure to the context of applications in modern research can be a valuable tool for teaching and learning. However, a persistent barrier to student participation in research is familiarity with the technical language, format, and context that academic researchers use to communicate research methods and findings with each other: the literature of the field. Astrobites, an online web resource authored by graduate students, has published brief and accessible summaries of more than 1,300 articles from the astrophysical literature since its founding in 2010. This article presents three methods for introducing students at all levels within the formal higher education setting to approaches and results from modern research. For each method, we provide a sample lesson plan that integrates content and principles from Astrobites, including step-by-step instructions for instructors, suggestions for adapting the lesson to different class levels across the undergraduate and graduate spectrum, sample student handouts, and a grading rubric.

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N. Sanders, S. Kohler, C. Faesi, et. al.
Tue, 6 Jun 17

Comments: Accepted by AJP. 15 pages, 4 figures

JHelioviewer – Time-dependent 3D visualisation of solar and heliospheric data [SSA]

Context. Solar observatories are providing the world-wide community with a wealth of data, covering large time ranges, multiple viewpoints, and returning large amounts of data. In particular, the large volume of SDO data presents challenges: it is available only from a few repositories, and full-disk, full-cadence data for reasonable durations of scientific interest are difficult to download practically due to their size and download data rates available to most users. From a scientist’s perspective this poses three problems: accessing, browsing and finding interesting data as efficiently as possible.
Aims. To address these challenges, we have developed JHelioviewer, a visualisation tool for solar data based on the JPEG2000 compression standard and part of the open source ESA/NASA Helioviewer Project. Since the first release of JHelioviewer, the scientific functionality of the software has been extended significantly, and the objective of this paper is to highlight these improvements.
Methods. The JPEG2000 standard offers useful new features that facilitate the dissemination and analysis of high-resolution image data and offers a solution to the challenge of efficiently browsing petabyte-scale image archives. The JHelioviewer software is open source, platform independent and extendable via a plug-in architecture.
Results. With JHelioviewer, users can visualise the Sun for any time period between September 1991 and today. They can perform basic image processing in real time, track features on the Sun and interactively overlay magnetic field extrapolations. The software integrates solar event data and a time line display. As a first step towards supporting science planning of the upcoming Solar Orbiter mission, JHelioviewer offers a virtual camera model that enables users to set the vantage point to the location of a spacecraft or celestial body at any given time.

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D. Mueller, B. Nicula, S. Felix, et. al.
Tue, 23 May 17

Comments: 13 pages, 12 figures, accepted for publication in Astronomy & Astrophysics

The Role of Gender in Asking Questions at Cool Stars 18 and 19 [IMA]

We examine the gender balance of the 18th and 19th meetings of the Cambridge Workshop on Cool Stellar Systems and the Sun (CS18 and CS19). The percent of female attendees at both meetings (31% at CS18 and 37% at CS19) was higher than the percent of women in the American Astronomical Society (25%) and the International Astronomical Union (18%). The representation of women in Cool Stars as SOC members, invited speakers, and contributed speakers was similar to or exceeded the percent of women attending the meetings. We requested that conference attendees assist in a project to collect data on the gender of astronomers asking questions after talks. Using this data, we found that men were over-represented (and women were under-represented) in the question sessions after each talk. Men asked 79% of the questions at CS18 and 75% of the questions at CS19, but were 69% and 63% of the attendees respectively. Contrary to findings from previous conferences, we did not find that the gender balance of questions was strongly affected by the session chair gender, the speaker gender, or the length of the question period. We also found that female and male speakers were asked a comparable number of questions after each talk. The contrast of these results from previous incarnations of the gender questions survey indicate that more data would be useful in understanding the factors that contribute to the gender balance of question askers. We include a preliminary set of recommendations based on this and other work on related topics, but also advocate for additional research on the demographics of conference participants. Additional data on the intersection of gender with race, seniority, sexual orientation, ability and other marginalized identities is necessary to fully address the role of gender in asking questions at conferences.

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S. Schmidt, S. Douglas, N. Gosnell, et. al.
Wed, 19 Apr 17

Comments: 16 pages, 8 figures, 2 tables. Submitted to Cool Stars 19 Proceedings. Related resources available at this https URL

An educational distributed Cosmic Ray detector network based on ArduSiPM [CL]

The advent of microcontrollers with enough CPU power and with analog and digital peripherals makes possible to design a complete particle detector with relative acquisition system around one microcontroller chip. The existence of a world wide data infrastructure as internet allows for devising a distributed network of cheap detectors capable to elaborate and send data or respond to settings commands. The internet infrastructure enables to distribute the absolute time (with precision of few milliseconds), to the simple devices far apart, with few milliseconds precision, from a few meters to thousands of kilometres. So it is possible to create a crowdsourcing experiment of citizen science that use small scintillation-based particle detectors to monitor the high energetic cosmic ray and the radiation environment.

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V. Bocci, G. Chiodi, P. Fresch, et. al.
Thu, 30 Mar 17

Comments: N/A