AAS 198th Meeting, June 2001
Session 15. Education: Projects, Techniques and Outreach
Display, Monday, June 4, 2001, 9:20am-6:30pm, Exhibit Hall

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[15.07] Student Ideas about the Sun

B. Hufnagel, A. D. Levenberg (Anne Arundel CC), G. L. Deming (U Md College Park)

One of us (BH) conducted in-depth interviews of ten representative introductory astronomy students in 1998 to explore their typical ideas about the Sun. We then analyzed the transcripts to find common ideas held by students prior to instruction. These ideas can be used by a professor to help the students construct a coherent model. Otherwise, students are likely to memorize facts or grasp individual concepts, but not connect them to their prior knowledge nor make them internally consistent. For example, most students think that the Sun was born in the distant past, but place its birth date at the time of the Big Bang.

We also looked for what was missing from the students’ interviews. For example, the students didn’t consider that the Earth’s atmosphere changes the apparent color of the Sun, or always know that energy has to be generated at the center of the Sun.

This analysis will be used as the basis for a separate diagnostic about the Sun as part of the “next generation” of the Astronomy Diagnostic Test.

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation through Grants DGE-9714489 and REC-0089239.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: brhufnagel@mail.aacc.cc.md.us

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