Student Achievement And Attitudes In Astronomy: An Experimental Study Of The Effectiveness Of A Traditional "Star Show" Planetarium Program And A "Participatory Oriented Planetarium" Program
In a smaller educational planetarium, with a capacity of between 15-75 people, is the traditional 'Star Show' planetarium program or the *Participatory Oriented Planetarium' program the most effective for instruction and attitude change?
The following statement by Alan J. Friedman, Associate Research Editor and Director of Astronomy and Physics Education for the Lawrence Hall of Science, made specifically in support of this study, succinctly states this problem of planetarium education» Much general theory of learning, including especially the work of Jean Piaget, supports the concept of ""hands-on* activity-based learn- ing strategies. In practice however, most in- struction at all levels is still based on some variant of the lecture format. This extends to planetariums. Our national survey of all North American planetariums (to be published soon) in- dicates that the great majority of planetarium programs are of the illustrated lecture format. If a more effective mode of learning were available, using it would enrich educational experiences for an estimated 11 million planetarium goers, including school children and adults. To date, there is not a single study that com- pares a conventional passive planetarium program withanactivity-basedprogram.8 (Forfurther information, please see Dr. Friedman's letter included in the appendix.) Dr. George F. Reed, Science Educator and Chairperson of the Research Committee for the Middle Atlantic Planetarium Society, also added his support for this research. In his letter, Dr. Reed states» I am particularly interested in Mr. Mallon's dissertationproposal. Ibelievethathisre- sults would be of significance because of his use of a large sample with one instructor. The one instructor is necessary to provide a com- petent familiarity of the program and approaches that are being tested. The planetarium field needs this type of information if it is to pro- vide the maximum educational service to its stu- dents. Without good educational research of this type, planetarium educators are subject to thepassingwhimsandfadsoftime.9 (For further information, please see Dr. Reed's letter included in the appendix.) In their letters of support, Dr. Friedman and Dr. Reed spoke of the national implications of this study. On a more local level, this study is of particular importance to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania because of the large number of planetariums located within the state. Pennsylvania has the highest dens- ity of planetariums in the country. Of the 190 now in existence in Pennsylvania, over 140 of these are in public schools. William H. Bolles, Science Educa- tion Adviser, Bureau of Curriculum Services for the Pennsylvania Department of Education has expressed his support for this study and has indicated that the re- sults ""would be of great value to the Department,"" and that ""this is something that has been needed for
many years."" Dr. Bolles's This (For further information, please see letter included in the appendix.) research study was executed then in order to examine the following questions.
1. Is either treatment, Participatory Oriented Planetarium program or Star Show program,
effective in increasing student understand- ing of selected astronomical concepts?
2. Are there any differences in the achievement level of students who receive the Participa- tory Oriented Planetarium program and the students who receive the Star Show treatment?
3. Is either treatment, Participatory Oriented Planetarium or Star Show, effective in chang- ing student attitudes towards astronomy?
4. Are there any differences in the compositemean attitudinal test scores of the students in the Participatory Oriented Planetarium treatment and the Star Show treatment in their attitudes towards astronomy?
From these four questions, the following null hypotheses were derived*
HI. There is no difference in student pre-treatment and post-treatment understanding of selected astronomical concepts, whether they experience a traditional Star Show planetarium program or a Participatory Oriented Planetarium program.
H 2. There is no difference in the achievement level of students who receive a Participa- tory Oriented Planetarium treatment and the achievement level of students who re- ceive a traditional Star Show treatment.
H 3. There is no difference in the students* pre-treatment and post-treatment attitudes
towards astronomy, whether they receive a Participatory Oriented Planetarium program or a traditional Star Show planetarium program.
H 4. There is no difference in the composite mean attitudinal test scores of the stu- dents who experience a Participatory Oriented Planetarium treatment and the stu- dents who experience a Star Show treatment in their attitudes towards astronomy.
Since these is no standardized test in exists ence for the measurement of student's knowledge of selected astronomical concepts, it was necessary to construct an evaluation instrument for this study. This test was designed to measure student understanding of the concepts addressed by the objectives of the two treatments. It was a paper-and-pencil test, rather than an open-sky test, since this format of test has been shown to be an effective means of evaluating constellation study. This test was reviewed by a panel of prominent planetarium educators, considered to be expert in the field of planetarium education, in order to establish content validity. Further, this instrument was tested in order to determine the reli- ability of the test and further tested to examine its correlation to individual testing sessions under the planetarium sky. The attitudinal survey was one of the most difficult aspects of this study. Attitude measurement is an area of science education that still requires much research. Richard E. Pearl dramatically addresses this problem in his statement, ""A survey of the literature reveals one consistent theme - the total in- 12 adequacy of science attitude measurement."" Therefore, rather than attempt to construct and validate a new instrument specifically for this study, an accepted science opinionnaire was selected from the few in ex- istence and used in this study. To use this science opinionnaire to test astron- omy attitudes, the test was made more specific by making the following adaptationsi
1. The word 'astronomy' was inserted wherever the word 'science' appeared.
2. The word 'planetarium' replaced the words 'science classroom.•
3. The word 'astronomer' replaced the word 'scientist.•
No other changes were made in the body of the survey instrument. When this attitude test was administered to the students, it was read aloud by the researcher, rather than privately read by the students. This format was used in order to diminish the effects of different reading levels within the population. To respond to the survey, students simply marked an op- tical scanning sheet according to their preference (i.e. strongly agree, agree, undecided, disagree, strongly disagree).
Type of Publication
Mallon, Gerald L.
Number of Pages
Nation(s) of Study
United States of America