AAS Meeting #194 - Chicago, Illinois, May/June 1999
Session 70. Astronomy and Education
Display, Wednesday, June 2, 1999, 10:00am-6:30pm, Southwest Exhibit Hall

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[70.04] The Astronomy Diagnostic Test: Comparing Your Class to Others

B. Hufnagel, G. Deming (Univ. of Maryland)

A standard diagnostic test can be a powerful tool to assess the conceptual understanding of students, as has been proven for undergraduate physics instruction over the last ten years (e.g., E.F. Redish and R.N. Steinberg 1999, Physics Today, 52:1, 24). If you are now using, or are considering adopting, a more interactive teaching style such as that used by Eric Mazur (Peer Instruction: a User's Manual, [Prentice-Hall: 1997]) or Michael Zeilik and his collaborators (1997, AJP, 65:12, 987), you may want to use a standard diagnostic test designed for undergraduate astronomy classes. Details of the validation of the ADT are at Slater et al., also presented in this session.

A comparative database of ADT scores, by class and by question, can help the instructor assess student preparedness and the effectiveness of alternative teaching methods. In the spring of 1999, 19 astronomy instructors at 7 state universities, 4 community colleges, 4 liberal arts schools, 1 woman's college and 1 technical university across the USA gave the ADT to their classes once at the beginning of the course, and again at the end of the course. The average pre-course ADT scores by class from these ~1000 students show two surprising results: the conceptual understanding of introductory classes is about the same (34%) regardless of type of school, geographic location, or average student age. However, there is a significant gender difference, with females scoring an average of 29% and males 39%, with the standard errors both less than 1%.

The Astronomy Diagnostic Test (ADT) and its comparative by-class database will be available at the National Institute for Science Education (NISE) website after 1 June 1999.

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation through Grant DGE-9714489, and by the generosity of the participating astronomy instructors.

If the author provided an email address or URL for general inquiries, it is a s follows:


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