Two-dimensional versus three-dimensional conceptualization in astronomy education
Numerous science conceptual issues are naturally three-dimensional. Classroom presentations are often two-dimensional or at best multidimensional. Several astronomy topics are of this nature, e. g. mechanics of the phases of the moon. Textbooks present this three-dimensional topic in two-dimensions; such is often the case in the classroom.
This study was conducted to examine conceptions exhibited by pairs of like-sex 11th grade standard physics students as they modeled the lunar phases. Student pairs, 13 male and 13 female, were randomly selected and assigned. Pairing comes closer to classroom emulation, minimizes needs for direct probes, and pair discussion is more likely to display variety and depth.
Four hypotheses were addressed: (1) Participants who model three-dimensionally will more likely achieve a higher explanation score. (2) Students who experienced more earth or physical science exposure will more likely model three-dimensionally. (3) Pairs that exhibit a strong science or mathematics preference will more likely model three-dimensionally. (4) Males will model in three dimensions more than females.
Students provided background information, including science course exposure and subject preference. Each pair laid out a 16-card set representing two complete lunar phase changes. The pair was asked to explain why the phases occur. Materials were provided for use, including disks, spheres, paper and pen, and flashlight. Activities were videotaped for later evaluation. Statistics of choice was a correlation determination between course preference and model type and ANOVA for the other hypotheses.
It was determined that pairs who modeled three-dimensionally achieved a higher score on their phases mechanics explanation at p $<$.05 level. Pairs with earth science or physical science exposure, those who prefer science or mathematics, and male participants were not more likely to model three-dimensionally. Possible reasons for lack of significance was small sample size and in the case of course preferences, small differences in course preference means.
Based on this study, instructors should be aware of dimensionality and student misconceptions. Whenever possible, three-dimensional concepts should be modeled as such. Authors and publishers should consider modeling suggestions and three-dimensional ancillaries.
Reynolds, M. D. (1990). Two-dimensional versus three-dimensional conceptualization in astronomy education. University of Florida, USA
Type of Publication
Reynolds, Michael D.
University of Florida
Number of Pages
Nation(s) of Study
United States of America