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ERIC Number: EJ1145598
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2017-Jun
Pages: 12
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-2374-6246
Have Astronauts Visited Neptune? Student Ideas about How Scientists Study the Solar System
Palma, Christopher; Plummer, Julia; Rubin, KeriAnn; Flarend, Alice; Ong, Yann Shiou; McDonald, Scott; Ghent, Chrysta; Gleason, Timothy; Furman, Tanya
Journal of Astronomy & Earth Sciences Education, v4 n1 p63-74 Jun 2017
The nature of students' ideas about the scientific practices used by astronomers when studying objects in our Solar System is of widespread interest to discipline-based astronomy education researchers. A sample of middle-school, high-school, and college students (N = 42) in the U.S. were interviewed about how astronomers were able to learn about properties of the Solar System as a follow-up question after specific questions about the nature of the Solar System and its objects. These students often held naive ideas about the practices of astronomy, and 19% of them proposed that humans or robots have returned samples of the planets to Earth for analysis. While the college students provided more sophisticated responses to the questions than the younger students, we found that even they held naive ideas about human sample return and infrequently appealed to studying objects at a distance using telescopes. We propose that students are not receiving specific instruction that allows them to investigate the tools and practices of astronomy, which leads them to rely on their prior knowledge about science practices in other disciplines (e.g., geoscience) when queried about how scientists study the Solar System. This result implies that instruction around the limits of human and robotic spaceflight is needed to allow students to have a more scientific understanding of the practices of astronomy in studying the Solar System.
Clute Institute. 6901 South Pierce Street Suite 239, Littleton, CO 80128. Tel: 303-904-4750; Fax: 303-978-0413; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Middle Schools; Secondary Education; Junior High Schools; High Schools; Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: National Science Foundation (NSF)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Pennsylvania
Grant or Contract Numbers: DUE0962792