A comparative study of the effectiveness of "star show" versus "participatory oriented planetarium" lessons in a middle school starlab setting
The purpose of this study was to compare the effectiveness of “Star Show” and the “Participatory Oriented Planetarium” (POP) instructional programs in a middle school Starlab setting. The Star Show is a planetarium program that relies heavily on an audio visual/lecture format to impart information, while the POP method of instruction is an inquiry, activity-based approach to teaching astronomy. All Star Show and POP lessons were conducted in a Starlab planetarium. This study examined the effectiveness o f the two methods on the attainment o f astronomy knowledge, changes in student attitudes toward astronomy, retention o f knowledge, and gender differences.
A pilot study (N = 69) was conducted at a middle school near King o f Prussia, Pennsylvania. The main study (N = 295) was conducted at a middle school near Reading, Pennsylvania. All students were pretested and posttested in both studies. The testing instruments included a 60-question paper-and-pencil content test and a 22-item Likert-style science attitude test. The content test was judged to be valid and reliable by a panel o f science educators. The attitude test is a field-tested attitude survey developed by Michael Zeilik.
The topics included in the Star Show and POP lessons were seasons, moon phases, eclipses, stars, and constellations. The Star Show programs used in this study are professionally prepared planetarium programs from Jeff Bowen Productions. Several planetarium educators who have been involved with planetarium training workshops throughout the United States developed the POP lessons used in this study.
The Star Show was clearly the more effective method for improving student knowledge in both the pilot and main studies. Both methods were equally effective for improving student attitudes toward astronomy. The POP method was the more effective method o f instruction when retention o f knowledge was examined four weeks after the treatments ended. Gender did not have any significant effect on this study.
In light of the results of this study, it appears that both Star Show and POP methods o f instruction should continue to play important roles in planetarium education. A combination o f the two methods is clearly the ideal solution when teaching astronomy to middle school students in a Starlab setting.