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Thursday, December 10 • 3:00pm - 3:50pm
Small steps into the sky: Introductory astronomy students’ knowledge prior to planetarium education (Poster)

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While there are large bodies of literature evaluating both the efficacy of planetariums for astronomy instruction at a primary school level (e.g., Brazell, 2009) and university students' level of astronomy knowledge (e.g., Rudmann, 2002), there is little research concerning the use of planetariums for higher education.  The aim of this study is to contribute to answering the questions of whether planetariums are an effective teaching environment for university-level courses, and whether interactive lessons in planetariums are more effective than traditional lecture-style planetarium shows for university instruction. We anticipate the results for this study may be generalized to other disciplines that also use immersive environments and hands-on activities as part of their teaching practices. We are testing planetarium instruction as part of two introductory astronomy courses offered at McMaster University. Participating students enrolled in the courses have taken a pre-test to gauge their existing understanding of celestial motion and the Solar System, and were invited to participate in an intervention partway through the course before taking an identical post-test at the end of term. The intervention consisted of two one-hour classes about celestial motion and the Solar System, either in a classroom or in a planetarium, and with either an interactive lesson or a traditional lecture-style show. We report on the initial findings from the pre-test about students' knowledge of astronomy as they enter their introductory astronomy courses, and discuss our next steps in the project.


Robert Cockcroft

McMaster University

Ian Fare

McMaster University

Thursday December 10, 2015 3:00pm - 3:50pm EST
McMaster Innovation Park Atrium