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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[70.03] Validating the Astronomy Diagnostics Test for Undergraduate Non-Science Majors

T.F. Slater (Montana State U.), B. Hufnagel (U. of Maryland), J.P. Adams (Montana State U.)

The Astronomy Diagnostics Test (ADT) is a standard diagnostic test for undergraduate non-science majors taking introductory astronomy. Serving to compare the effectiveness of various instructional interventions, the ADT has been developed and field-tested over the last year by a multi-institutional team, known as the Collaboration for Astronomy Education Research (CAER). The team includes Jeff Adams, Rebecca Lindell Adrian, Christine Brick, Gina Brissenden, Grace Deming, Beth Hufnagel, Tim Slater, and Michael Zeilik, among others. The need for a nationally normed, valid, and reliable assessment instrument in astronomy has been articulated in a wide variety of forums. This need results from the simultaneous occurrence of several important phenomena over the last decade including: the inclusion of astronomy concepts in national science education standards; documentation of widespread astronomical misconceptions; the influence of the Force Concept Inventory guiding reform in physics; and the call for university faculty to document improvements in instruction. In a triangulated effort to validate the ADT for widespread use, the researchers used on a three-phase strategy. In this context, "validity" means that the ADT measures what it purports to measure. In other words, do students give the correct answer for the scientifically correct reasons or, alternatively, do students give the correct answer even though they have misunderstandings about the phenomena being tested? These three phases were: (1) conduct statistical item-analysis on each test question for a large and diverse student population (n=2000 from 21 institutions); (2) conduct 60 clinical student interviews using the test questions as the script; and (3) conduct an inductive analysis of 30 student supplied written responses to ADT questions posed without the multiple-choices provided. The ADT and its supporting comparative database is available at URL: http://solar.physics.montana.edu/aae/adt/. This research was supported in part by NSF DGE-9714489 (BH) and NASA Grant #CERES-NAG54576 (TS).

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