AAS 207th Meeting, 8-12 January 2006
Session 92 Astronomy Education: Collaborations and Research
Oral, Tuesday, 10:00-11:30am, January 10, 2006, Balcony B

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[92.06] The Role of Darkness in Student Learning About Light Propagation

M.A. Wells, H.L. Shipman (University of Delaware)

Light propagation is one of the most fundamental physics concepts utilized in astronomy education. A number of studies over the past twenty years have identified students’ misconceptions with explaining light propagation from a variety of light sources and optical systems. Several studies reveal students’ confusions when asked to explain the role of the observer and vision in the process of seeing luminous and non-luminous objects. One variable that has not been directly incorporated into research is exposure to complete darkness, both prior to and during instruction. The common perception that ‘light is not a prerequisite for sight’ may be considered a faulty ontological assumption due to a lack of prior experience with darkness. This paper will report results from a study conducted on darkness and vision using 155 students from University of Delaware’s Black Holes and Cosmic Evolution course. Analysis and conclusions will be presented in the context of light propagation and conceptual change literature.

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