Astronomy Education Review Celebrates 10th Anniversary
AAS Press Release
October 11, 2011
Dr. Thomas A. Hockey
Editor-in-Chief, Astronomy Education Review
Dr. Rick Fienberg
AAS Press Officer
+1 202-328-2010 x116
Astronomy Education Review (AER), the online journal of astronomy and space-science education published by the American Astronomical Society (AAS), celebrated 10 years of promoting science literacy last week.
Editor-in-Chief Thomas Hockey credits AER’s success to the wisdom of the founding editors. “Andrew Fraknoi and Sidney Wolff saw astronomy educators laboring in splendid isolation and decided that a research journal would unite the field,” he says. “They were right.” AER now publishes the overwhelming majority of peer-reviewed research papers about astronomy teaching and learning, by authors from around the world.
AER supports the science-literacy goals of the National Research Council’s New Worlds, New Horizons decadal survey, which concluded that “a more rigorous program of assessment is needed of outcomes and efficacy across the entire spectrum of astronomical education.” It also contributes to the America COMPETES Act’s goal to develop a scientifically literate workforce for the 21st century.
“The AAS’s mission is ‘to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the Universe,’” says Executive Officer Kevin Marvel, “and AER does this by helping astronomers develop their skills in the fields of education and public outreach.” Perhaps more importantly, he says, AER helps promote more effective teaching and learning not only in astronomy but also in other areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). “Astronomy is a gateway science,” says Marvel. “Raise the level of astronomy education and you raise the level of interest and performance in all STEM fields.”
After a decade of publishing peer-reviewed astronomy-education articles AER has many interesting things to share, including:
- First teach the reasons for the seasons, then teach climate change.
- Those dots on your photos are muons, not ghosts.
- Demographics are not as important as interactive learning and teachers’ beliefs.
- Paradoxically, belief in astrology can coexist with legitimate scientific knowledge.
- Milk does the cosmological concept good.
- Citizen-science projects increase the public’s confidence in the scientific method.
- There is a prescription for adding an astronomy course to your high school.
- Children have many misconceptions about gravity.
- Online telescope projects teach much more than how to use a telescope.
- Holiday lights can be used to demonstrate absorption spectra.
- Student feedback can be streamlined by surveying groups rather than individuals.
- Introductory astrobiology courses should teach that life can survive without oxygen and differentiate between complex life forms and microorganisms.
- Half of middle school, secondary school, and undergraduate college students believe that the Big Bang was a phenomenon that organized pre-existing matter.
- High-school students lack a sense of “order of magnitude” when they imagine an experience different from their daily life.
- Children’s understanding of a spherical Earth and gravity is essential for further conceptual development in astronomy.
- Cooperative quizzes can increase grades without excessively diluting the importance of closed-book major exams.
- Students’ knowledge about stars is enhanced through their understanding of nuclear fusion.
- Using role-playing games to teach astronomy can change attitudes toward the scientific process.
- Ranking-task exercises such as listing phases of the Moon from earliest to latest can significantly improve student understanding of core astronomy topics.
So far in 2011, its 10th year of publication, AER has been read in 98 countries and has had more than 15,000 unique visitors.
AER was originally published by the National Optical Astronomy Observatories. It became a journal of the American Astronomical Society in 2009. AER is freely available online.
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The American Astronomical Society (AAS), established in 1899 and based in Washington, DC, is the major organization of professional astronomers in North America. Its membership of about 7,500 individuals also includes physicists, mathematicians, geologists, engineers, and others whose research and educational interests lie within the broad spectrum of subjects now comprising contemporary astronomy. The mission of the AAS is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe. Among its many activities, the AAS publishes three of the leading peer-reviewed journals in the field: The Astrophysical Journal, The Astronomical Journal, and Astronomy Education Review.