The Chronicle of Higher Education
May 4th 2015
Scott Fisher gets a lot of educational mileage from a postcard.
Each quarter Mr. Fisher, a lecturer in astronomy at the University of
Oregon, asks students in his introductory course to write to him at his
cosmic address. That means not only including his room number here in
Willamette Hall and his ZIP code, 97403, but also locating him in the
The extra-credit assignment serves one of Mr. Fisher’s main goals for
the course: helping students develop a sense of scale, or what he calls
"a cosmic perspective." Along the way, he hopes to firm up their
tenuous grasp of scientific reasoning and make them more comfortable
with science. That’s the idea behind several revamped courses in
biology, chemistry, geology, and physics at Oregon, to raise an often
paltry level of science literacy among nonmajors.