Context — Teaching astrophysics – challenges and opportunities

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Essential knowledge foundations for studying astrophysics.

Astrophysics is a subject that requires broad knowledge within physics and mathematics but also computational science and some chemistry. At UiO and most other universities, there are only few courses in astrophysics at the bachelor level since the required knowledge basis is yet to be disseminated in more general physics and mathematics courses during the first semesters. Nevertheless, it is important to begin early in the teaching of astrophysics like with the first-semester course AST1010 (A cosmic journey), which I contributed to in 2019–2021. The challenge is here to convey topics in astrophysics to students with limited background knowledge and/or this necessary knowledge being formed relatively late. For example, students should learn about the structure of the stars’ interior which requires knowledge of differential equations. The consequence is that this topic can be addressed in detail only towards the end of the B.Sc. studies. Nevertheless, students should understand the topic at a lower level even before that. On the positive side, astrophysics offers many exciting examples that combine different aspects of the related sciences and can thus provide a sense of relevance and connection of the individual building blocks.

Teaching as a joint project.

In astrophysics, as in many other fields of research today, it is common to work as part of a team since the topic is complex. That should also be reflected in teaching. Good teaching in astrophysics cannot be offered by individuals, but requires good collaboration between everyone who is directly involved in a course (e.g. lecturer and group teachers) and also between all teachers at the institute. A course should not be isolated but linked in a strategic, consistent and systematic way with the other courses to ensure a smooth transition between the courses and thus to increase the quality of the education as a whole. This is in line with UiO’s goal to be a quality-seeking university that strengthens a culture for continuous quality improvement and that transfers them to later generations. In this context, peer review should be considered as the standard tool for quality assurance. This should also include the students themselves. Teaching is aimed at students and should therefore be adapted to their needs. It is of central importance to maintain a continuous dialogue with the students and to use feedback as a basis for improving and further developing the teaching concept or individual courses and their connections.

Published Sep. 15, 2022 3:04 PM - Last modified Sep. 15, 2022 3:07 PM