Using the Contextual Model of Learning to Understand Visitor Learning from a Science Center Exhibition

Falk, J., Storksdieck, M., 2015, Science Education, 89, 5, 744–778

To find out how specific independent variables (such as prior knowledge, interest, motivation, choice and control, within and between group social interaction, orientation, advance organizers, architecture, and exhibition design) contribute to learning outcomes when not measured in isolation and if the "Contextual Model of Learning" is useful for understanding learning in museums.

Reviewed: October 13, 2015

Building Science Process Skills, Students explore rain forest habitat characteristics and species diversity duri...

DeFina, Anthony V., 26, The Science Teacher, , January, 36-41

This is not a research study, but a report of how one teacher structures his field trip experiences to support his students in acquiring process skills that fall into five basic categories: acquisitive, organizations, creative, manipulative, and communicative. The case presented is for a field trip to the Bronx Zoo. The author provides tasks for the teacher before the field trip, trip activities (including individual investigations and collaborative projects), and a scoring rubric for field trip and classroom group products.

Reviewed: March 27, 2015

Early Elementary Students' Development of Astronomy Concepts in the Planetarium

Plummer, J., 2008, Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 46, 2, 192-209

Few studies (prior to the publishing of this one) exist regarding how students learn in a planetarium environment. In prior studies of student understanding of the motions of celestial objects, the results suggest that students have a limited understanding of these motions; other studies involving teachers also showed that their overall knowledge base is limited. Both teachers and students had general knowledge of the motions of the Sun, but knowledge of the apparent motions of the Moon (including lunar phases) and stars was lacking. This study involved investigating whether a single 45-minute kinesthetic element-based planetarium program had an effect on students' understanding of the apparent motions of the Sun, Moon, and stars across the sky.

Reviewed: September 2, 2014

Eyeballs in the Fridge: Sources of early interest in science

Maltese, A., Tai, R., 2010, International Journal of Science Education, 32, 5, 669-685

There are many things that can influence whether an individual becomes a scientist. This study is based on the researchers’ belief that student interest in science is based on a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic experiences. The study focused on individuals with experience in a Ph.D. program in chemistry or physics, specifically, and attempted to quantify these influences, answering questions such as 1) what was the timing of an individual’s initial science interest? (i.e. when did it happen?), 2) who was responsible for sparking the interest (i.e. who did it?), and 3) what was the nature of the initial experiences (i.e. what happened?).

Reviewed: September 2, 2014

Astronomy Podcasting: A Low-Cost Tool for Affecting Attitudes in Diverse Audiences

Gay, P., Price, A., Searle, T., 2007, Astronomy Education Review, 5, 1, 36-52

The authors carried out 2 surveys of 917 astronomy podcast listeners and producers in August 2005 and January 2006. The study examines how to create a podcast, who is listening, and how astronomy podcasts affect listeners' attitudes towards astronomy. The authors give an overview of podcasting as a medium, specifically looking at podcasting as a way to reach audiences with up-to-date content on a variety of astronomical topics.

Reviewed: September 2, 2014

Conceptual change in introductory-level astronomy courses

Zeilik, M., Bisard, W. J. , 2000, Journal of College Science Teaching, 29, 4, 229-232

The authors carried out pre- and post-assessment of hundreds of students at the University of New Mexico (UNM) and Central Michigan University (CMU) over one semester to identify and track student misconceptions and how they change, comparing non-science majors to science majors. The authors were particularly interested in tracking structural vs factual misconceptions, and seeing whether there were differences in gains in each of these two types. Structural misconceptions are defined as incorrect pre-existing ideas that are strongly held, very resistant to even interactive teaching methods, and are assumed to be "imbedded in a well-developed alternative cognitive structure." Factual misconceptions, meanwhile, are defined as those that are simple to change with basic instruction. The authors found no difference in gains in factual vs structural misconceptions, and no significant difference in gains between the science majors and non-science majors at UNM. Significance was measured at 1 sigma. There was, however, a significant difference when looking at the very small number of astronomy majors (N=7), who exhibited greater gains than other students.

Reviewed: September 2, 2014

Conceptual astronomy knowledge among amateur astronomers

Berendsen, M., 2005, Astronomy Education Review, 4, 1, 1-18

Amateur astronomers, whether as members of astronomy clubs or as individuals, frequently lead or participate in outreach in their local communities. Amateur astronomers also have a wide range of educational backgrounds and astronomical background knowledge. The researcher was interested in understanding the conceptual astronomy knowledge of amateur astronomers, particularly those who serve as "outreachers" -- communicators and informal educators of astronomy. The research, conducted via a survey of self-identified amateur astronomers, focused on three questions. First, which factors in educational background and amateur astronomy experience are correlated with increased or decreased conceptual astronomy knowledge? Second, what is the level of astronomical knowledge among amateurs who participate in outreach? Third, does this astronomical knowledge indicate that amateur astronomers can be a reliable, valid source of astronomical information for their audiences (i.e., the general public)?

Reviewed: September 2, 2014

Learning Physical Science through Astronomy Activities: A Comparison between Constructivist and Traditional Appr...

Ward, R. B., Sadler, P., Shapiro, I.,, 2008, Astronomy Education Review, 6, 2, 1-19

Evaluation of Project ARIES - an astronomy-based physical science curriculum for upper elementary and middle school children. The project uses simple, affordable materials to carry out hands-on activities, and includes comprehensive teacher support materials and student journals. The ARIES team hypothesize that when students discover for themselves through exploratory activities that their predictions do not match their findings, they are more open to reassessing and changing their personal beliefs. Approximately 750 Grade 3-6 intervention students are compared pre- and post-intervention with approximately 650 Grade 4-6 control students. Hypotheses were: 1) students in classes using ARIES materials will significantly increase their understanding of concepts related to time, astronomy, light and color; 2) students in classes using ARIES materials will increase understanding of these concepts significantly more than students in control classes not using ARIES materials. A detailed analysis identifies concepts where Project ARIES was more effective and equally effective in producing student gains than the control, and those where neither was effective. Project ARIES students were found to achieve approximately four times the gain of the control group, and the gains were greater for concepts that the control students found most difficult. Project ARIES, an astronomy-based physical science curriculum for grades 3-8, uses innovative, simple, and affordable apparatus to carry out hands-on, discovery-based activities. 750 grade 3-6 students in ARIES classrooms are compared with 650 grade 4-6 students in control classrooms through a series of open-ended assessment measures, using a pretest and posttest format. We identify concepts where the ARIES approach is more effective, where both are equally effective, and where neither results in much learning (ARIES was never less effective). Although learning is in evidence for both control and treatment groups, overall, the ARIES students achieve roughly four times the gain of their control counterparts. In particular, ARIES students had much greater gains for the concepts that the control students found most difficult.

Reviewed: September 2, 2014