Seeing the crescent moon or full moon? An investigation into student teachers’ understanding of the phases of the moon.
This paper addresses the understandings student-teachers have of the Moon’s phases before instruction, the influence of African cultural beliefs on these understandings and the effectiveness of two contrasting teaching methodologies at improving these understandings. The study comprised two sample groups both completing an Astronomy component in their respective courses: seven Geography major primary school student-teachers and fifteen Science Curriculum Studies secondary school student-teachers. In order to research the learning of the student-teachers, data was collected both before and after instruction using questionnaires and interviews. Student-teachers who are not English first-language speakers experienced difficulties when answering written questions. Little scientific understanding of Moon phases was found to be evident before instruction. Further, the students demonstrated a total of eight alternative conceptions. African cultural beliefs were found to be present and provided alternative conceptions of the Moon phases. It was found that a number of cultural beliefs remained, even after instruction. The teaching methodology in the Science Curriculum Studies course appeared to have greater instructive effect, but no student-teachers finally held a complete scientific understanding in either group. The paper concludes with recommendations for teaching strategies for this level of student in the South African system of Higher Education.
Kelfkens, L. & Lelliott, A. D. (2006). Proceedings of the 14th Annual SAARMSTE Conference, University of Pretoria