A study of the status of astronomy education and its influence on the astronomy literacy of three generations of public school students
This study was designed to determine the degree of astronomy literacy and the sources of astronomy knowledge of three age groups of public school students: (1) 10th grade students who have recently completed an earth science course, (2) adults thirty-five years of age and less who were young enough to have been exposed to the post-Sputnik science curricula of the 1960's and 1970's, and (3) adults more than thirty-five years of age who had completed public education prior to the development of the new science curricula. Procedure. The Field Study research design was employed utilizing a short, true-false astronomy test and a biographical questionnaire which were administered jointly to selected students and adults. According to the data on the questionnaire each subject was grouped by age, educational background, and gender. The data was analyzed using an analysis of variance at the .05 level of significance. Data on the questionnaire was tabulated and presented as a percentage of total respondents. Findings and Conclusions. Based on the findings of this investigation, and considering possible limitations, the following conclusions seem to be justified: (1) No relationship was shown to exist between the science curriculum of a post-Sputnik public school education and an increase in the astronomy literacy of the general population. In fact, during the past forty-four years a retrogression of basic astronomy knowledge is strongly indicated. (2) No relationship was shown to exist between the completion of a 9th grade earth science course and increased astronomy knowledge. (3) Evidence was found that the science of astronomy is often confused with the pseudoscience of astrology by all ages of the general population, and apparently to a greater degree by high school students than by adults. (4) A positive relationship was found to exist between having a college degree, regardless of the major area of study, and astronomy literacy. (5) A positive relationship was found to exist between astronomy courses, either at the high school or college level, and astronomy literacy. (6) A relationship was also found to exist between gender and astronomy knowledge, in that males, at all age levels, scored significantly higher than females. (7) Television presently rivals public school education as a major source of astronomy information to the general public.