# Astronomy Teaching that Focuses on Learning Subtitled: What ...

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: [email protected] Supported in part by NSF Geoscience Education #9907755 and CCLI #9952232 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 Astrology lots and lots of math (and when is the course drop date anyway?) How often do you hear the following from your students? I just cant do science! I just cant do math! I understand your lectures and the readings, but I cant do the homework. I did all of the homework three times, but I cant do well on your tests. I just cant 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? AER is using the systematic methods of repeated observation and theorytesting used in astronomical research to improve

student-learning and student-attitudes. 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 Some interesting results from the Astronomy Diagnostics Test (ADT) http://solar.physics.montana.edu/aae/adt/ Imagine that you are building Imagine a scale

that model Imagine you are of the that building earth you and are a scale bu the moon. If you uses a 12-inch the moon. basketball Ifthe you moon. for uses earth aIf12-inch you

and auses basa 3-inch tennis ball for the moon, 3-inchhow tennis far3-inch ball apartfor should tennis the moon, ball theyforhow the be placed to represent the proper be placed distance to be represent scale? placed to therepresent proper dis

th a) 4-inches (1/3 foot) 8% 8% b) 6-inches (1/2 foot) 23% 23% c) 36-inches (3 feet) 41% 41% d) 30 feet 18% 18% e) 300 feet 9% 9% 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 Sun Gemini Taurus Cancer Leo Pisces East South West 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 11% E) Pisces 73% B) Cancer D) Taurus Sun Gemini Taurus Cancer Leo Pisces East South West Results from Spring 1999 Pre-Course Scores by Gender 400

350 300 250 200 150 Females Males 100 50 0 7% 21% 35% 50% 64% 78% 82% Female Male N 825 683 Mean 28% 38% Std. Error 0.4% 0.6% Gender matters.

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. Saturns 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 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? No, are you stupid? No, its 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 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. 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 cars 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 FACETS of knowledge (similar to Minstrell, 1989) Phenomenological PRIMITIVES (similar to di Sessa, 1993) 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 CANT MAKE SOMETHING FROM NOTHING OHMS P-PRIM 1-2-3-MORE Examples of Phenomenological PRIMITIVESo r P-PRIMS Interfering with learning astronomy IMPORTANT NOTE: These are NOT exactly the same P-Prims described by di Sessa. How Do Primitive-like Ideas Impact Teaching and Learning Astronomy? the summer because we are CLOSE MEANS MORE Its hotter incloser

to the Sun MOTION REQUIRES FORCE INTERFERENCE CANT MAKE SOMETHING FROM NOTHING OHMS P-PRIM 1-2-3-MORE Spaceships need rockets on at all times to keep moving I cant see all of the Moon because the Earth is in the way There is no air on the Moon so there cannot be gravity on the Moon The Big Bang organized pre-existing matter All bright stars must be very hot The solar system contains millions of stars A comet is a tiny galaxy

RESEARCH CHALLENGE We dont yet know exactly how to build astronomy curriculum around these accurate nuggets of knowledge [P-Prims] Were just now trying to systematically identify and build on them 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 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

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 nave, 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 An Abridged Lecture-Tutorial Example O HR Diagram Tutorial Name:__________________________ 1. What are the spectral class, temperature, absolute

magnitude, and luminosity of Star G? Spectralclass: o Tem perature: o A bsolute m agnitude: o Lum inosity: o 2. W hich stars in the diagram have the sam e Spectral Class B A 10 6 10 4

F Luminosity E 10 -5 D 0 B Main Sequence 1 K Red Giants

A 102 G 5 F 1 0 tem perature? 3. H ow do the spectralclasses ofthe stars in Q uestion 2 10-2 C com pare? 4. W hich stars have the sam e lum inosity?

10 -4 5. H ow do the absolute m agnitudes ofthe stars in 20,000 G 10,000 Temperature (K) 5,000 2 0 Q uestion 4 com pare? 10-6 6. Iftw o stars have the sam e absolute m agnitude,do they necessarily have the sam e tem perature? 7.

8. Iftw o stars have the sam e spectralclass,do they necessarily have the sam e tem perature? The Stefan-Boltzm ann Law tells us abouthow the lum inosity ofa staris related to its tem perature and size. Itreads as follow s: L Area T 4 8. If you obser ve two star s that ar e the same si ze, but deter mine that Star #1 i s hotter than Star # 2, which star : a) Is mor e l uminous? B) Has a l ar ger absol ute magni tude? 1 5 White Dwarfs 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 Bottom Line Teaching and Learning are NOT the Same Thing THANK YOU Tim Slater Montana State University Department of Physics Conceptual Astronomy and Physics Education Research (CAPER) Team Email: [email protected] Supported in part by NSF Geoscience Education #9907755 and CCLI #9952232

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