My topic is on the obscure and often ambiguous subject of Astrology. Although there are many types of Astrology, I will be
focusing on Western Tropical Astrology (WTA). From the perspective of theory to practice I use my years of qualitative observations and my interaction with students in the first iteration of the project. The concept was to give self-selected students a more solid understanding of what WTA is and that which it is not. The course speaks of this approach as a philosophy of what WTA can and cannot do, which parts are scientific or “quantitative” and which parts are observational or “qualitative.”
“Astrolosophy™” is what I have dubbed my course in WTA. In this course, I discuss some components of Astrology that are considered “pseudoscience” in the scientific community and some concepts of Astronomy that are universally accepted by all. This is literally a safe place for unique perspectives to “agree to disagree.” Astro = Stars and losophy = the study and wisdom of is how I arrive at the term “Astrolosophy™.”
Astrology: As it is above it is below
Light Speed and Stars
Since astrology is supposed to be this philosophy of how large celestial bodies like the sun, the moon and stars of the constellation effect our lives on earth, it is important to understand light.
Light is recorded as moving at 186,000 miles a second (186,282 miles per second to be precise). This is considered to be the cosmic speed limit of all matter and energy in science.
What does this mean?
What this means is that when you look up in the sky and you see stars at night, you are literally looking at stars, as they were ten of thousands of years ago. The sun is our local star and the light that it generates takes more than 8 minutes from the time it leaves the surface (91,402,000 miles away) until it reaches earth (499.01225 seconds or 8 minutes and 18 seconds).
The light that you see is only a fraction of the light that exists in the universe. If you look closely at the electro-magnetic spectrum, you will see that “visible light” is only a small fraction of the light that exists (see figure 1 below).
We need special instruments to detect the other forms of light. An acronym that could be used is
There is a separate acronym that is used to remember the colors of the visual spectrum:
Roy G. Biv
Remote controls for your television is the perfect example of light that you cannot see. If you look at the electromagnet chart you will see that “infrared” literally comes right underneath (the frequency) red as “infra” means below.
Considering that each star in every one of the 88 constellations is a different size and at a different distance, it becomes very difficult to decide how much influence each star will affect life here on earth. Since there is no definitive, venerable source for how Astrology was created, this will always be a topic of controversy and debate between all astrologers and the culture of the scientific community. This is often the main reason that astrology is regarded as a pseudo-science in the scientific community.
Gravity and tides
The gravitational effect that the moon has on the ocean’s waves can be seen as the best example of the effect objects in space can have here on earth. As the moon becomes full in an area, the ocean’s tides get higher on shore and the crest of each wave gets higher and ebbs more frequently to the shore. Many believe that the effects of the full moon can be felt in everyone’s bloodstream. People tend to get a little more excited around the full moon and often have trouble sleeping. It is assumed that the other planets have some gravitational effect on the earth, this is why their location on a natal chart influences your character. All of the planets as associated with a God/Goddess and their mythology.
Many of the students who tried the first iteration of the course provided me with the feedback necessary to raise the level of fun, expectation and learning. As the course evolved, I constructed it to be more of a constructivist forum to provoke free thought within the premise of critical thinking. That which helped students successfully reach the learning objectives of the course was retained and more activities and graphics were created to enhance learning and retention. Through this process, I dubbed a tool that I use frequently as the “AstroClock™,” (see figure 2 below). Since the “AstroClock™” proved to be a very effective visual tool, I created variations of this clock to explain all of the different components of Astrology. These different components can be seen as gears that make the “AstroClock™” go round. Using the clock as a metaphor makes practical sense because people from all backgrounds and ages understand how they function. Therefore it was often easier to explain more complex subjects using a visual age that they understand and are very comfortable with.
Building a Bridge to Understanding
The subject of astrology is familiar to various countries and cultures around the world. Although the scientific community often refers to the subject of astrology as pseudo-science, many of the most venerable newspapers continue to provide a horoscope section for its readers. My approach is not to prove that astrology is a science but rather to provoke thought around it being a philosophy and an art. This approach can be considered a gateway to the larger subject of self-study that can come from studying a natal chart. Natal charts discuss personality trait tendencies a person can have based on where the planets were when the subject was born. So in the end, even if you are a skeptic of astrology you may gain some insight in participating in the group discussions and opportunities for self-reflection.
Where the planet Mercury is placed may give insight to how an individual thinks, organizes, educates himself or herself and communicates. Venus’ location may give insight on to an individual’s ethics, pleasures, passions how they might express affections to others. So even if a student decides astrology is not for them, through these sections will provide opportunities for personal growth. Since the audience usually ranges from pre-teen to senior citizens, the focus here is on people who are interested in learning about more than daily horoscopes. The course is not focused on making people “believers,” rather, the aim is to generate dialogue and debate aimed at developing tools for self-reflection.
Academic Challenges: From Philosophy to Academic Discourse
Due to the immense amount of content in astrology, my biggest challenge has been to make the information simple and engaging enough for the curious novice while remaining accurate and substantial enough for people with a solid knowledge base in astrology. For the purpose of pedagogical expectations I had to place this complex subject in the framework of:
- « Planning instruction
- « Assessing students
- « Clarifying behavioral rules and routines
- « Organizing the classroom
The course has evolved immensely as I have met significant challenges presented while designing this course to reach such
a wide audience. With respect to planning instruction and assessment, I jumped right in last year and set up a beta site and gave login information to all who showed interest. There was very little time management and the course was set up to be topic driven as opposed to time sensitive. What I learned is that my core audience is range in age is large but the students that participate most are between the ages of 14 and 40. The younger students responded very well to all of the graphics and multimedia while students 35 and up wanted their graphics to be more “on demand.”
FLOW: Pacing of the Course
All participants take a pre-test so that a baseline of knowledge can be established for measure in relation to subsequent assessments. There are also opportunities for the student to share their date of birth in an icebreaker exercise that is also the first step towards building a natal chart. Using this approach, I could focus on bringing up the level of “flow” within the course (Kiili, 2007). The applicable objective of “flow” is to make sure that learning is just challenging enough to engage the learner while not being so difficult that it turns the learner off to the lesson. When a balance is struck and the student is concentrating for long periods of time without interruption and the “flow” has been reached.
Thirst For Knowledge: Pushing And Pulling From The Well Of Knowledge
Planning instruction has a symbiotic relationship with organization of instructional design. Therefore, I was careful to try and balance “push” and “pull” techniques so that the learner has clear exceptions in the form of assignments, however, due dates were not present as the course is in a topics based format. The flexibility allows the student to choose which sections to complete first (Doucette, 1998 p. 26) and the certificates of completion offer and incentive to finish the work. I do stress a learning pathway that may be easier, but I leave it to the learner to decide at a pace that is more desirable for them.
Wearing Different Shoes And Hats: Build And Assess Using All Hats And Shoes
To assess your course on an optimal level, there must be a continual “feedback loop” that links instructor, instructional design and student assessment in a dynamic manner that causes the findings to emerge as pedagogical updates on which approaches to apply that will be most beneficial for all stakeholders. The Complex Adaptive Science (J. Beaubien) reinforces that the best pedagogy is one that is constantly adapting to keep pace with the distinct learning styles of the various learners. This approach is in sync with Hootstein’s article, “Wearing four pairs of shoes: The roles of E-learning facilitators.” Instructors and students benefit most when an instructor takes on the as many roles as possible to get a complete picture of what is serving the learning process well. The four primary roles are:
« Instructor: consultant, guide, and resource provider.
« Social director: creator of collaborative environments.
« Program manager: director of the agenda.
« Technical assistant: model of proficiency
Conclusion: The Zenith of the Prime Meridian
In conclusion, it is best to use all of the techniques of the four task suggested: planning instruction, assessing students, clarifying behavioral rules and routines, organizing the classroom. However, it is important to recognize that this is a dynamic process that must include the time constraints of the student and the full wardrobe of instructor’s educational talents. The key is to recognize that 21st century teaching requires instructors to be varied, flexible and versatile in order to reach the mandates of educational expectation in both virtual and brick and mortar classrooms. With spending on public education being cut so deeply while tuitions rise amidst a struggling economy, educators who utilize dynamic instructional design are the key to bringing the field into equilibrium and eventually back to economic health. While the casual subject of Astrolosophy™ does not seek to meet all of the aforementioned challenges, it will provide a place for individual growth. The zenith of Astrolosophy’s objective will be met through building community while attaining personal growth and teaching people how to discuss subjects in a manner that is cogent and civil. In this manner, when the objectives of the course are met, they can potentially benefit all participants and the communities they participate in.