Exploring Alternative Conceptions of Teachers and Informal Educators Concerning Selected Astronomy Concepts
The purpose of this study was to (1) identify alternative conceptions concerning astronomy in groups of formal and informal educators, (2) discover the origins of some of these conceptions and (3) explore how practicing teachers planned to address the need for conceptual change in their students. In response to the first question, a number of alternative conceptions were identified in formal educators, with more for teachers of pre kindergarten through third grade than fourth through twelfth grade teachers, and very few alternative conceptions in the informal educators group. In regards to the second research question, a number of origins were indicated: logic, books, elementary school, high school, astronomy classes, self study and observation. In response to the third question, various practicing teachers used computer programs and modelling in order to address some of the alternative conceptions they noticed in their students. These findings were supported by the literature and theoretical frameworks on which the study was based. The study addressed gaps in the literature concerning alternative conceptions and how they related to Ohio’s Academic Content Standards along with nineteen other states. This study also addressed the need for a closer examination of informal educators and how they compare to formal educators in terms of having alternative conceptions. And finally, implications and recommendations were made for practicing educators, materials for practicing educators, teacher education, informal and formal education partnerships, standards modification, research methodology and areas of future research.