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Introductory Astronomy for Mature Students

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 April 2016

William H. Waller
Affiliation:
Department of Astronomy, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, U.S.A.
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Extract

Much of this meeting has been concerned with the teaching of introductory astronomy to children, teenagers, and young adults. Introductory astronomy for working and retired adults has been given short shrift, however. Because the mature population is significant in number and in its influence on governmental support for astronomy, I thought that some mention should be made. My own experience concerns the educational programs that are available to mature students in the United States.

Most working adults are restricted by their jobs to taking classes in the evening. Most large universities in the United States provide such classes. These are often administered by organizations that are completely autonomous from the “host” school. A typical arrangement is for the school to provide classroom space, access to audio-visual equipment (sometimes), and university credit for those who register for credit. The “adult education,” “continuing education,” or “university extension” organization handles the rest. It obtains the necessary faculty to teach the courses, advertises the classes, and administers the registration and grading. For the “credit” courses in astronomy, the most common teachers are graduate students and postdoctoral fellows looking for some extra cash and teaching experience. There is no real impetus for regular faculty members to teach these classes. This is an unfortunate circumstance that could be remedied by some private, state, or federal funding of endowed “chairs” in adult education.

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11. Popularization
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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1990
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