Lev Horodyskyj Home   Portfolio   Teaching   Outreach   Research   Publications  
Interests | Observation-Assumption Model | Courses Taught
Teaching Interests
I have spent most of my teaching career building and teaching courses related to computer programming and astrobiology. In college, I redesigned the curriculum for the computer science course Internet and introduced Flash and databases, which later became integral internet infrastructure. In graduate school, I redesigned the curriculum for the astrobiology course Earth and Life to include more experimental pedagogies and activities, including using snapshots of my daily life to teach about the fossil record and creating a combined individual/group activity where students worked on organisms and their responses to ecosystems and their various biological, geological, and astronomical stressors.

At Arizona State University, I tackled online science pedagogies via Habitable Worlds. This project required many innovations in pedagogies as I built a digitally native online course. I conceptualized and tested the simulators used throughout the course and designed the activities around them. I also built the adaptive pathways and adaptive feedback that guide students through the experience. Some examples of my work can be found here:

Mindscapes - a concept activity to teach philosophy of science
Brightness - an activity built using a sim and adaptive design
Stratigraphy - an activity built using a virtual field trip

I am continuing to innovate in the introductory science curricular space. Currently, I am exploring two new course design elements for intro science courses. The first focuses on identifying, teaching, practicing, and evaluating scientific thinking skills during the course of the semester (rather than focusing on content knowledge that is especially irrelevant for non-science majors). The approach is based on the observation-assumption model (see below). The second focuses on helping students build stronger and more explicit connections between the topics studied in intro-level science and their particular majors. This is currently being done via semester-long projects that have students identify and link course topics to future career plans and areas of interest.


Observation-Assumption Model (Pedagogy)

Teaching science is difficult. Teaching science online even more so. The problem with most science courses is that they teach information about science, rather than the actual process itself. That is typically left to lab sections, but even those don't actually teach the process either since they're focused on replication and methodology. So how do we construct a science course that actually engages students in the process of science? Habitable Worlds comes close by erasing the distinction between labs, lectures, homework, problem sets, and projects. Can we do even better?


Through Habitable Worlds, I have conceptualized a different way of teaching science. Science focuses very much on observations and the methodologies that have been developed to gather and analyze robust observations. However, few scientists and instructors of science ever talk about assumptions and the role they play in the scientific process. Assumptions are essentially "placeholder observations" (for example, "assume albedo is 0.5 for this exoplanet" or "assume a relative humidity of 40%"). They are critical to constructing scientific models because it is impossible to make all the observations necessary to construct a complete model. Models can range from assumption-dominated (a hypothesis) to observation-dominated (a theory). I suspect that this is a more intuitive way of understanding science and that it will be more accessible to a wider variety of students.

Philosophy of Science (beta) - first attempt at teaching this conceptualization of science

Preliminary results show that at the beginning of this activity, students conflate "hypothesis" and "theory" in terms of definitions and confidence they should have in each. By the end of the activity, the confidence rating for the two begin to more accurately reflect how scientists would interpret the words. In addition, when given a variety of models to evaluate, they are able to correctly sort them into "hypothesis" and "theory" categories.

Future teaching assignments and projects will endeavor to put this philosophy into practice throughout the course, rather than remaining restricted to a single "philosophy of science" lesson at the beginning of the semester. I suspect that allowing students to incorporate more of their assumptions into their classwork will make science more accessible to them and make it easier to remediate misconceptions, since they will no longer be cast as "hypotheses" (which carries a judgmental tone that can make testing one intimidating and disproving your own embarrassing) and instead as "assumptions" (which are easier to discard without consequence).

Courses Taught

University of the Virgin Islands (US)
Physics 211: Introduction to Physics I (Fall 2020) - Instructor
Physics 212: Introduction to Physics II (Spring 2021) - Instructor
Physics 497: Senior Seminar (Fall 2020, Spring 2021) - Instructor
Natural Sciences 104: Astronomy (Summer 2021) - Instructor

Universitas Khairun (Indonesia)
Marine Geology (Spring 2020) - Co-Instructor

Chandler-Gilbert Community College (US)
Astronomy 111: Intro to Solar System Astronomy (Fall 2019) - Instructor
Astronomy 112: Intro to Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmology Lab (Fall 2019) - Instructor

Arizona State University (US)
Earth and Space Exploration 106: Habitable Worlds (Spring 2012, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2018) - Instructor
Earth and Space Exploration 106: Habitable Worlds (Fall 2011 - Fall 2018) - Course Coordinator

Glendale Community College (US)
Geology 110: Geologic Disasters and the Environment (Fall 2010) - Instructor

Pennsylvania State University (US)
Geosciences 21: Earth and Life (Spring 2008) - Co-Instructor
Geosciences 21: Earth and Life (Spring 2004, Spring 2005) - Teaching Assistant
Geosciences 301: Environmental Geology (Fall 2003) - Teaching Assistant

Johns Hopkins University (US)
Computer Science 113: Internet (Summer 2001, Fall 2001, Spring 2002, Summer 2002, Fall 2002, Spring 2003) - Head Teaching Assistant
Computer Science 113: Internet (Spring 2000, Fall 2001, Spring 2001) - Teaching Assistant