We started off with pretty basic material covering flux and luminosity, and slowly built up from there to problems involving the equations for stellar structure and virial theorem. Working in groups of 2-4 students, we were immersed in the material from the start and took a very hands-on approach to solving the problems on the worksheets. Needless to say, the step-by-step format of the worksheets allowed us to get to the answers mostly on our own. Throughout the process, though, our professor and TA asked us questions that would lead us in the proper direction. Students who solved problems faster than others could also provide assistance to other groups. This is one of the advantages of replacing lecture time with work time - it allows the professor and TA to take advantage of Caltech's great student-faculty ratio and work directly with the students in a very collaborative manner. In addition, the class format allowed us to cover more material than we could have through lectures. Typically, we had one to two worksheets per week which each introduced a new topic. Without devoting class time to solving the worksheets, we would have been working at a much slower pace.
Professor Johnson also had a number of astronomers who worked in Cahill visit to discuss their research, allowing us to ask questions about their career. This was another great part of the class. In addition to keeping the class fun and interesting, it provided us with a number of contacts and potential research projects for the summer. In addition, it provided me with further insight into the career path I am following.
Overall, Ay20 has been a blast. The class was immersive and collaborative, and I gained a lot out of the unique format. I have no doubt that I am enthusiastic and well prepared for my future astronomy classes at Caltech.