Dynamic Visualizations As Tools For Supporting Cosmological Literacy

Buck, Zoe E. (2014) Dynamic Visualizations As Tools For Supporting Cosmological Literacy. Doctoral thesis, University of California, Santa Cruz.


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My dissertation research is designed to improve access to STEM content through the development of cosmology visualizations that support all learners as they engage in cosmological sense-making. To better understand how to design visualizations that work toward breaking cycles of power and access in the sciences, I orient my work to following “meta-question”: How might educators use visualizations to support diverse ways of knowing and learning in order to expand access to cosmology, and to science? In this dissertation, I address this meta-question from a pragmatic epistemological perspective, through a socio-cultural lens, following three lines of inquiry: experimental methods (Creswell, 2003) with a focus on basic visualization design, activity analysis (Wells, 1996; Ash, 2001; Rahm, 2012) with a focus on culturally and linguistically diverse learners, and case study (Creswell, 2000) with a focus on expansive learning at a planetarium (Engeström, 2001; Ash, 2014). My research questions are as follows, each of which corresponds to a self- contained course of inquiry with its own design, data, analysis and results: 1) Can mediational cues like color affect the way learners interpret the content in a cosmology visualization? 2) How do cosmology visualizations support cosmological sense-making for diverse students? 3) What are the shared objects of dynamic networks of activity around visualization production and use in a large, urban planetarium and how do they affect learning? The result is a mixed-methods design (Sweetman, Badiee & Creswell, 2010) where both qualitative and quantitative data are used when appropriate to address my research goals. In the introduction I begin by establishing a theoretical framework for understanding visualizations within cultural historical activity theory (CHAT) and situating the chapters that follow within that framework. I also introduce the concept of cosmological literacy, which I define as the set of conceptual, semiotic and cognitive resources required to understand the scientific Universe on a cosmological scale. In the first chapter I use quantitative methods to investigate how 122 post- secondary learners relied on mediational cues like color to interpret dark matter in a cosmology visualization. My results show that color can have a profound effect on the way that audiences interpret a dynamic cosmology visualization, suggesting a closer look at learning activity. Thus in the second chapter I look at how the visualizations are used by small groups of community college students to make sense of cosmology visualizations. I present evidence that when we look past linguistic fluency, visualizations can scaffold cosmological sense-making, which I define as engaging in object-oriented learning activity mediated by concepts and practices associated with cosmological literacy. In the third chapter I present a case study of an urban planetarium trying to define its goals at a time of transition, during and after the development of a visualization-based planetarium show. My analysis reveals several historical contradictions that appear to impel a shift toward affective goals within the institution, and driving the implementation of visualizations, particularly in the context of immersive planetarium shows. I problematize this result by repositioning the shift toward affective goals in the context of equity and diversity. Finally in my conclusion I present broad recommendations for visualization design and implementation based on my findings.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: Astronomy Education Research
Depositing User: Users 1 not found.
Date Deposited: 31 Mar 2017 00:57
Last Modified: 19 Aug 2018 09:11
URI: http://istardb.org/id/eprint/184

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