The Role of Astronomy as Part of a Broad Science Education for All Pupils
"This thesis is a report on a research programme aimed at promoting the more widespread teaching of astronomy by addressing two principle issues: demonstrating its value as a part of balanced science and showing that it can be taught in a style compatible with mainstream
A literature search, carried out to identify forces which influenced past levels of astronomy education, revealed that throughout history astronomy has been held within priesthoods and that calls for its more widespread teaching were related to the Nation's economy or security. This search identified early theories about astronomy which parallel ideas frequently subscribed to by both pupils and teachers today, and revealed areas from astronomy's history which can be used as a vehicle to develop childrens' concept about planet Earth in space.
Postal surveys indicate that the amount of astronomy presently taught in schools (1986) has undergone little change from the past; astronomy only features in 47% of English secondary schools and the coverage tends to be superficial. Heads of Science departments are dissatisfied with their school's provision for astronomy education, their pupils' and their own understanding of the subject; 68% requesting Inset before they can teach astronomy with confidence.
Surveys of childrens' understanding of astronomy show that they frequently construct their own explanations (alternative frameworks) for many of their observations, and that these alternative frameworks are commonly preCopernican in structure and are often carried into adulthood.
Pupils' alternative ideas were used as the central focus for the production of astronomy teaching materials. This material has received favourable evaluation and has achieved one of the principle aims of the study.
The significance of this research is reviewed against the statutory requirements of the National Curriculum (1988) [i] for science and recommendations are made about Attainment Target 16 sequencing changes, cross-curricular links, Inset and the role of various agencies in an attempt to identify the best way forward for astronomy education."