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Using Research on Student Difficulties as a Foundation to Enhance Teaching and Learning in Introductory Astronomy A Progress Report. Tim Slater Montana State University Department of Physics Conceptual Astronomy and Physics Education Research (CAPER) Team Email: tslater@physics.montana.edu

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slide1

Using Research on Student Difficulties as a Foundation to Enhance Teaching and Learning in Introductory AstronomyA Progress Report

Tim Slater

Montana State University

Department of Physics

Conceptual Astronomy and Physics

Education Research (CAPER) Team

Email: tslater@physics.montana.edu

Supported in part by NSF Geoscience

Education #9907755 and CCLI #9952232

the difference between astronomy and astrology
The Difference Between Astronomy and Astrology

Welcome to ASTRO 101

Before we start, are their any questions?

Yeah, what makes astronomy different from astrology??

the difference between astronomy and astrology3
The Difference Between Astronomy and Astrology

lots and lots of math

(and when is the course drop date anyway?)

how often do you hear the following from your students
How often do you hear the following from your students?
  • I just can’t do science!
  • I just can’t do math!
  • I understand your lectures and the readings, but I can’t do the homework.
  • I did all of the homework three times, but I can’t do well on your tests.
  • I just can’t do history!
  • From a teaching and learning perspective, just what is it that makes astronomy different?
what is physics and astronomy education research paer anyway
What is Physics and Astronomy Education Research (PAER) anyway?

AER is using the systematic methods of repeated observation and theory-testing used in astronomical research to improve student-learning and student-attitudes.

slide6

Some interesting results from the Astronomy Diagnostics Test (ADT)http://solar.physics.montana.edu/aae/adt/

Imagine that you are building a scale model of the earth and the moon. If you uses a 12-inch basketball for earth and a 3-inch tennis ball for the moon, how far apart should they be placed to represent the proper distance scale?

a) 4-inches (1/3 foot)

b) 6-inches (1/2 foot)

c) 36-inches (3 feet)

d) 30 feet

e) 300 feet

slide7

Some interesting results from the Astronomy Diagnostics Test (ADT)http://solar.physics.montana.edu/aae/adt/

Imagine that you are building a scale model of the earth and the moon. If you uses a 12-inch basketball for earth and a 3-inch tennis ball for the moon, how far apart should they be placed to represent the proper distance scale?

8%

23%

41%

18%

9%

Imagine that you are building a scale model of the earth and the moon. If you uses a 12-inch basketball for earth and a 3-inch tennis ball for the moon, how far apart should they be placed to represent the proper distance scale?

8%

23%

41%

18%

9%

Imagine that you are building a scale model of the earth and the moon. If you uses a 12-inch basketball for earth and a 3-inch tennis ball for the moon, how far apart should they be placed to represent the proper distance scale?

a) 4-inches (1/3 foot)

b) 6-inches (1/2 foot)

c) 36-inches (3 feet)

d) 30 feet

e) 300 feet

astronomy diagnostics test adt

Sun

Gemini

Taurus

Leo

Cancer

Pisces

 East

West 

South

Astronomy Diagnostics Test (ADT)

If you could see stars during the day, this is what the sky would look like at noon on a given day. The Sun is near the stars of the constellation Gemini. Near which constellation would you expect the Sun to be located at sunset?

A) Leo C) Gemini E) Pisces

B) Cancer D) Taurus

astronomy diagnostics test adt9

Sun

Gemini

Taurus

Leo

Cancer

Pisces

 East

West 

South

Astronomy Diagnostics Test (ADT)

11%

73%

If you could see stars during the day, this is what the sky would look like at noon on a given day. The Sun is near the stars of the constellation Gemini. Near which constellation would you expect the Sun to be located at sunset?

A) Leo C) Gemini E) Pisces

B) Cancer D) Taurus

results from spring 1999 pre course scores by gender
Results from Spring 1999Pre-Course Scores by Gender

Gender matters.

Female Male

N 825 683

Mean 28% 38%

Std. Error 0.4% 0.6%

slide11

16. All planets have prograde rotation

17. All moons are spherical

18. We see all sides of the Moon

19. Ours is the only moon

20. Spring tide only occurs in the Spring

21. Only the Moon causes tides/the Moon has no effect on tides

22. High tide is only between the Earth and Moon

23. Once the ozone is gone, its gone forever

24. Mercury is hot everywhere on its surface

25. Giant planets have solid surfaces

26. Saturn is the only planet with rings

27. Saturn’s rings are solid

28. Pluto is always the farthest planet from the Sun

29. The Sun primarily emits yellow light

30. The Sun is solid & shines by burning gas or from molten lava

31. The Sun always rises directly in the East

32. Black holes are empty space

33. Black holes are huge vacuum cleaners in space, sucking everything in.

1. Seasons depend on the distance between the Earth & Sun

2. There are 12 zodiac constellations

3. The constellations are only the stars making the patterns

4. The North Star is the brightest star in the night sky

5. Stars last forever

6. All stars are same color

7. Stars really twinkle

8. All stars are isolated

9. Pulsars are pulsating stars

10. Asteroid belt is densely packed, as in “Star Wars”

11. Meteors, Meteorites, Meteoroids, Asteroids, and Comets are the same things

12. A shooting star is actually a star falling through the sky

13. Comet tails are always behind the comet

14. Comets are burning and giving off gas as their tails

15. All planetary orbits are circular

what is the main rationale people use for why it is hotter in the summer time
What is the main rationale people use for why it is hotter in the summer time?
  • Closer to the Sun
  • Why?
    • Deep and internally consistent misconception about the tilted-spinning Earth-Sun system? … OR
    • Or did they just construct that meaning on-the-spot?
if a student says it is hotter in the summer time because we are closer what do you say
If a student says it is hotter in the summer time because we are closer, what do you say?
  • No, are you stupid?
  • No, it’s the tilt of the Earth.
  • Hum, I heard that it is warmest in Australia in January. How can that be?
  • Why do you say that?
  • What is it you are listening for if you ask them to explain their answer?
how people learn
How People Learn

Students enter your lecture hall with preconceptions about how the world works. If their initial understanding is not engaged, they may fail to grasp the new concepts and information that are taught, or they may learn them for the purposes of a test but revert to their preconceptions outside the classroom

HOW PEOPLE LEARN, NRC, National Academy Press, 2000.

slide16

FACETS of knowledge(similar to Minstrell, 1989)

Phenomenological PRIMITIVES(similar to di Sessa, 1993)

  • When children touch something on the stove, they learn that temperature increases with decreasing distance
  • When children hear a car’s horn, they learn that sound intensity increases with decreasing distance
  • When children see a bright flashlight, they learn that brightness increases with decreasing distance
  •  CLOSE MEANS MORE

Students enter your lecture hall with preconceptions about how the world works. If their initial understanding is not engaged, they may fail to grasp the new concepts and information that are taught, or they may learn them for the purposes of a test but revert to their preconceptions outside the classroom.

slide17

CLOSE MEANS MORE

  • MOTION REQUIRES FORCE
  • INTERFERENCE
  • CAN’T MAKE SOMETHING FROM NOTHING
  • OHM’S P-PRIM
  • 1-2-3-MORE

Examples of Phenomenological PRIMITIVESor P-PRIMS

Interfering with learning astronomy

Students enter your lecture hall with preconceptions about how the world works. If their initial understanding is not engaged, they may fail to grasp the new concepts and information that are taught, or they may learn them for the purposes of a test but revert to their preconceptions outside the classroom.

IMPORTANT NOTE: These are NOT exactly the same P-Prims described by di Sessa.

slide19

RESEARCH CHALLENGE

We don’t yet know exactly how to build astronomy curriculum around these accurate nuggets of knowledge [P-Prims]We’re just now trying to systematically identify and build on them

slide20
Which ideas in your class can be fixed by lecture and which ideas have to be constructed? (aka, When can I lecture?)
  • Seasons are caused by changing distance from the Sun
  • The North Star is the brightest star in the sky
  • Astronauts on the Space Shuttle float because there is no gravity in space
  • The Space Shuttle goes to the Moon every week
  • Black holes fly around and vacuum up stars
  • The Solar System contains hundreds of stars
  • The Big Bang was an organization of pre-existing stuff

viz., Adams & Slater, 2000; Brissenden, 1999; Comins, 2000; Lindell Adrian, 1999; Sadler, 1992; Slater, 1993; Vosniadou, 1989; Zeilik, 1997, among many others

slide21
Q4: Which has a greater temperature, a K-spectral class star or a F-spectral class star?
    • Nearly all students can answer this question correctly after conventional instruction.
  • Q15: Star A is a K-spectral class star that is much brighter than Star B which is a F-spectral class star. Which star has a higher temperature?
    • More than half of all students cite Star A is the hotter of the two stars because it is brighter after a conventional lecture about luminosity, spectral classes, and Stefan-Boltzman Law
  • When presented with the opportunity, students access a “brighter means hotter” p-prim when answering Q15
development of lecture tutorials for introductory astronomy
Development of Lecture-Tutorialsfor Introductory Astronomy
  • Identify specific CONCEPTS that many students do not seem to grasp through lecture
  • Develop a highly-structured series of collaborative learning group questions designed to:
    • elicit misconceptions
    • confront naïve, incomplete, or inaccurate ideas
    • resolve contradictions
    • demonstrate the power of THEIR conceptual models
  • Field-test in a wide-variety of classroom environments and adopt model in other disciplines
bottom line teaching and learning are not the same thing
Bottom Line – Teaching and Learning are NOT the Same Thing

Research Challenge:

  • Determine which ideas in your class can be taught and which ideas have to be learned
  • Use this information is to guide the development of active learning approaches
t hank y ou
THANK YOU

Tim Slater

Montana State University

Department of Physics

Conceptual Astronomy and Physics

Education Research (CAPER) Team

Email: tslater@physics.montana.edu

Supported in part by NSF Geoscience

Education #9907755 and CCLI #9952232

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