AAS 207th Meeting, 8-12 January 2006
Session 27 Probing and Understanding Effective Learning and Teaching
Poster, Monday, 9:20am-7:00pm, January 9, 2006, Exhibit Hall

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[27.10] What do students (and teachers) understand about the universe?-Using qualitative and quantitative assessments to inform and improve astronomy education efforts.

M. Dussault, P. Sadler, H. Coyle, R. Gould, E. Reinfeld, S. Steel, B. Gregory (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA), J.A. Grier (Planetary Science Institute)

One of the best ways to improve any astronomy education effort is to know your audience -- before, during, and after they participate in particular learning experiences. We describe a variety of tools we have used for gauging the astronomical knowledge and understandings held by middle-school, high-school, and adult learners, including qualitative surveys, performance assessments, clinical interviews, as well as large-scale quantitative assessments using misconception-driven multiple choice tests. We have developed and used these different types of assessments for a variety of purposes: as front-end evaluations to inform the design of instructional materials and museum exhibitions; as learning activities in and of themselves; as tools for examining student learning in the context of teacher professional development; as research instruments to characterize the content knowledge of a national sample of students and teachers; and as methods to assess the impact of astronomy education programs. This poster will highlight a number of common non-scientific beliefs held by both students and adults that frequently emerge in all these types of assessments. Our assessment instruments are available to researchers who wish to enhance and measure the effectiveness of their own programs. The work that produced these assessments was funded by NASA's SMD education and public outreach program through the Universe Education Forum.

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 37 #4
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