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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.

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Presentation on theme: "Using Research on Student Difficulties as a Foundation to Enhance Teaching and Learning in Introductory Astronomy A Progress Report Tim Slater Montana."— Presentation transcript:

1 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 Supported in part by NSF Geoscience Education # and CCLI #

2 The Difference Between Astronomy and Astrology Welcome to ASTRO 101 Before we start, are their any questions? Yeah, what makes astronomy different from astrology??

3 The Difference Between Astronomy and Astrology lots and lots of math (and when is the course drop date anyway?)

4 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?

5 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.

6 Some interesting results from the Astronomy Diagnostics Test (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

7 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% Some interesting results from the Astronomy Diagnostics Test (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

8 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) LeoC) GeminiE) Pisces B) CancerD) Taurus Astronomy Diagnostics Test (ADT) Leo Cancer Gemini Taurus Pisces South West  East Sun

9 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) LeoC) GeminiE) Pisces B) CancerD) Taurus Astronomy Diagnostics Test (ADT) Leo Cancer Gemini Taurus Pisces South West  East Sun 11%73%

10 Results from Spring 1999 Pre-Course Scores by Gender Gender matters. Female Male N Mean 28% 38% Std. Error 0.4% 0.6%

11 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 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.

12 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?

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14 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?

15 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.

16 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. 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 F ACETS of knowledge (similar to Minstrell, 1989) Phenomenological P RIMITIVES (similar to di Sessa, 1993)

17 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.  CLOSE MEANS MORE  MOTION REQUIRES FORCE  INTERFERENCE  CAN’T MAKE SOMETHING FROM NOTHING  OHM’S P-PRIM  MORE Examples of Phenomenological P RIMITIVES or P-P RIMS Interfering with learning astronomy I MPORTANT N OTE : These are NOT exactly the same P-Prims described by di Sessa.

18 How Do “Primitive-like” Ideas Impact Teaching and Learning Astronomy? C LOSE M EANS M ORE It’s hotter in the summer because we are closer to the Sun M OTION R EQUIRES F ORCE Spaceships need rockets on at all times to keep moving I NTERFERENCE I can’t see all of the Moon because the Earth is in the way C AN’T M AKE S OMETHING F ROM N OTHING There is no air on the Moon so there cannot be gravity on the Moon The Big Bang organized pre-existing matter O HM’S P-P RIM All bright stars must be very hot M ORE The solar system contains millions of stars A comet is a tiny galaxy

19 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 R ESEARCH C HALLENGE

20 So, when do I get to lecture?? Students can learn many things in a lecture if they are at the point where they need it. So, what can I lecture on? That’s where we are right now…. Research Challenge: Determine which ideas in your class can be taught and which ideas have to be learned! (this information is needed to guide the development of active learning tutorials)

21 The Montillation of Traxoline ( attributed to Judy Lanier) It is very important that you learn about traxoline. Traxoline is a new form of zionter. It is montilled in Ceristanna. The Ceristannians gristerlate large amounts of fevon and then brachter it to quasel traxoline. Traxoline may well be one of our most lukized snezlaus in the future because of our zionter lescelidge. Now I’m going to give you a test ….

22 The Montillation of Traxoline (attributed to Judy Lanier) It is very important that you learn about traxoline. Traxoline is a new form of zionter. It is montilled in Ceristanna. The Ceristannians gristerlate large amounts of fevon and then brachter it to quasel traxoline. Traxoline may well be one of our most lukized snezlaus in the future because of our zionter lescelidge. Directions: Answer the following questions in complete sentences. Be sure to use your best handwriting. 1. What is traxoline? 2. Where is traxoline montilled? 3. How is traxoline quaselled? 4. Why is it important to know about traxoline?

23 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

24 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

25 Development of Lecture-Tutorials for Introductory Astronomy Identify specific C ONCEPTS 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 T HEIR conceptual models Field-test in a wide-variety of classroom environments and adopt model in other disciplines

26 An Abridged Lecture-Tutorial Example …

27 Is the Textbook the Curriculum? A random selection of three introductory astronomy texts in my office show approximately: 400 bold-faced words 630 bold-faced words 880 bold-faced words As compared to a one-year introductory foreign language course that teaches about 400 active words

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31 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

32 Creation of New Knowledge is the Interface Between Teaching and Learning How long would it take to get from Venus to Mars? Exactly where do I look to see a planet? What’s the coefficient of friction on the highway? How do scientists know … Context-rich problems with multiple correct answers How can you determine …

33 T HANK Y OU Tim Slater Montana State University Department of Physics Conceptual Astronomy and Physics Education Research (CAPER) Team Supported in part by NSF Geoscience Education # and CCLI #

34 Using Research on Student Reasoning Difficulties to Enhance Teaching and Learning in Introductory Astronomy: A Progress Report Tim Slater, Montana State University Research in earth and space science education has been showing that, despite well-intentioned efforts of interested faculty, many students leave courses with fundamental misconceptions. This is even evident on television where a recent Jay Leno bit asks people on the street, how long does it take Earth to go around our Sun? As you can probably guess, not enough folks know the correct answer. So, why is it that so many people have problems retaining the basic science knowledge that most academics seem to recall easily? As scientists working on improving education, we hope to create a comprehensive theoretical model that allows us to look carefully at the curriculum and know a priori which concepts require targeted instruction and which concepts can be effectively taught using conventional lectures. Over the last few years, research by scientists on students’ specific conceptual and reasoning difficulties is providing significant insight into how to improve teaching and learning of science. Our best evidence suggests that specific instructional strategies can be built around how students learn that lead to improved learning for many students who are currently struggling in our courses.

35 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Tim Slater is a research associate professor of physics at Montana State University where he conducts research on teaching and learning in earth and space sciences at both the K-12 and collegiate levels. The results of his research are used to develop innovative curriculum materials and assessment strategies specifically targeted at common student misconceptions. He has been leading of collaborative team of scientists and educators in developing Internet-based curriculum materials and teacher enhancement programs that use electronic data sources to provide learners with authentic research experiences. Much of this work is being utilized by various NASA Space Science missions as part of their national education and public outreach efforts. Dr. Slater earned a BS in Physical Science and a BS Ed in Secondary Science Education from Kansas State University, an MS in Physics and Astronomy from Clemson University and a Ph.D. in Geological Sciences from the University of South Carolina. His dissertation focused on understanding the extent to which elementary and secondary teachers change their teaching of astronomy concepts when exposed to constructivist instructional strategies. Dr Slater serves as the lead project scientist for the MSU NASA Center for Educational Resources (CERES) Project, the AstroNotes column editor for The Physics Teacher Journal, and has just completed two-consecutive terms as the American Association of Physics Teachers - Astronomy Education Committee chairman. He has been awarded more than $3 million in grants for his work in teacher training and curriculum development, published nearly 50 articles, and currently working on two book projects. Tim Slater Research Associate Professor Montana State University Department of Physics Bozeman, MT Tel. (406) Fax (406) URL:


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