Overview of the project

Project title: West African International Summer School for Young Astronomers
Project leader:  Dr Bonaventure Okere

The NASRDA Centre for Basic Space Science, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, in collaboration with the Dunlap Institute at the University of Toronto, the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics (CITA) and Institute for Science and Engineer Educators’ (ISEE) at the University of California, Santa Cruz will organize an introductory summer school in astronomy for 80 undergraduate science students and postgraduates/Researchers in West Africa. This is the second year the summer school will be held.

Unlike similar schools, which focus just on scientific content, WAISSYA will combine lectures given by Nigerian faculty with interactive problem solving sessions and innovative, inquiry-based activities led by graduate student and postdoctoral fellow instructors from the University of Toronto. In inquiry-based teaching, students learn science concepts and skills by mimicking authentic scientific research, generally via a facilitated exploration of real data that is guided by the students’ own questions. Inquiry teaching methods have been shown by science education research to give students a deep, lasting understanding of the material covered in the school, rather than just a shallow overview, and to promote students’ scientific skills and self-identity as scientists (see references below).

We will use a practice known as “backwards design” — that is, establishing our learning goals and assessment metrics first, and then creating activities that will help students meet those goals. This means that assessment will remain a critical component throughout the activity, so that we can monitor how well our interventions work, both during and after the school.