Track

Research Proposal / Assessment of Student Learning

Proposal Abstract

For this project, I analyze papers and essays from students in a general education course, Observational Foundations of Astronomy. Students were asked to construct arguments about whether ancient astronomers, who in many cases were also astrologers and priests, were scientists. I will present the results, with student definitions and examples. This should have implications for how we talk about science with our students across the curriculum.

Proposal Description

In the Department of Physics at Miami University, we teach three astronomy classes designed to be taken, in sequence, by students from outside the department. Most of the students who take these courses are from non-science majors, and the courses are designed for them.

The course I am studying here is called Observational Foundations of Astronomy. This is the middle course in the sequence, after Introduction to Astronomy and Space Science and before Contemporary Astronomy.

In this class, we talk about the astronomy done by ancient civilizations, and about whether that work, often a mix of astronomy, astrology, and religion, was science. I assign students short papers (2-3 pages) in which they first argue that early astronomers in a given society either were or were not astronomers and then, in a second paper, argue the opposite thesis. I follow this with an essay question on the midterm, asking whether the astronomers of classical Greece were scientists.

Before the SoTL Commons, I will have analyzed data from two years, about 50 students. I’ll then be able to discuss what evidence students used in their papers and essays, and from that infer what students believe about the nature of science.

As most astronomy classes are taught to students with majors outside the sciences, this research can be a valuable lens into the thoughts of non-scientists. It could have implications for how we teach general education science courses across the curriculum, as a common student learning objective in these courses is to be able to demonstrate an understanding of what science is and/or what scientists do.

Participants in the presentation session will have the opportunity to brainstorm and share their definitions of science – what do scientists believe and do? They can compare their ideas to those of the students in the study.

Session Format

Presentation Session

Publication Type and Release Option

Presentation (Open Access)

 
Mar 29th, 4:00 PM Mar 29th, 5:00 PM

Assessing Astronomy Students’ Views about the Nature of Science

For this project, I analyze papers and essays from students in a general education course, Observational Foundations of Astronomy. Students were asked to construct arguments about whether ancient astronomers, who in many cases were also astrologers and priests, were scientists. I will present the results, with student definitions and examples. This should have implications for how we talk about science with our students across the curriculum.