AAS 202nd Meeting, May 2003
Session 10 Astronomy Education: Middle School to College
Poster, Monday, May 26, 2003, 9:20am-6:30pm, West Exhibit Hall

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[10.11] Mathematical Rigor vs. Conceptual Change: Some Early Results

W.R. Alexander (James Madison University)

Results from two different pedagogical approaches to teaching introductory astronomy at the college level will be presented. The first of these approaches is a descriptive, conceptually based approach that emphasizes conceptual change. This descriptive class is typically an elective for non-science majors. The other approach is a mathematically rigorous treatment that emphasizes problem solving and is designed to prepare students for further study in astronomy. The mathematically rigorous class is typically taken by science majors. It also fulfills an elective science requirement for these science majors.

The Astronomy Diagnostic Test version 2 (ADT 2.0) was used as an assessment instrument since the validity and reliability have been investigated by previous researchers. The ADT 2.0 was administered as both a pre-test and post-test to both groups. Initial results show no significant difference between the two groups in the post-test. However, there is a slightly greater improvement for the descriptive class between the pre and post testing compared to the mathematically rigorous course. There was great care to account for variables. These variables included: selection of text, class format as well as instructor differences. Results indicate that the mathematically rigorous model, doesn’t improve conceptual understanding any better than the conceptual change model. Additional results indicate that there is a similar gender bias in favor of males that has been measured by previous investigators.

This research has been funded by the College of Science and Mathematics at James Madison University.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: alexanwr@jmu.edu

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Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, 35 #3
© 2003. The American Astronomical Soceity.