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Astronomy Education Research Project

Astronomy Education Research Project is an evidence and curriculum-based STEM and STEAM project for high school level astronomy. It involves an investigative data-and-inquiry-driven curriculum replacement for the “astronomy out of the text book” approach commonly undertaken in high schools. It includes  an embedded professional learning program for the teacher, while the students undertake authentic astronomical analyses of data collected at their request by the professional grade astronomical telescopes of the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope (LCOGT) network. Thus, this project provides teaching and  learning support, access to research-grade telescopes and instrumentation from the science classroom, and curriculum materials for teachers. This allows teachers the opportunity to undertake authentic astronomy in their classrooms with a minimum of stress or preparation.

The core of the project revolves around the curriculum materials supplied as an interactive digital “book” accompanied by all of the software, student materials, teacher guides and explanatory movie clips. These materials are updated, expanded and extended immediately as teachers implement the project in their classrooms and supply feedback on their experiences to Professor McKinnon and Dr Fitzgerald. By providing these pre-prepared and coherently structured, but editable and customisable, curriculum materials for teacher as well as online support, we enable the teacher to minimise their own preparation time in order to allow her/him to focus on quality provision of astronomy education in her/his classroom.

Research outputs from the project examine how other national and international projects, such as those focused on creating educational change in the science classroom,  fail or succeed and investigates the reasons why. Our national and international collaborative research is informed by a variety of explorations of recent, decade scale, historical states and changes in educational influences at local, national and international levels. Our research focusses on the creation, design and evaluation of a variety of educational approaches, materials and projects. We are demonstrating through this project how students’ beliefs, attitudes and understandings of the nature of science can be shifted positively through inquiry‐based interdisciplinary (STEM and STEAM) and authentic in‐class experiences. Why, When and Where these shifts take place, and How to create these shifts in differing contexts is a core focus of the current research that surrounds the project.

Funding agency

Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network

Project duration

January 2014 - Ongoing


Researchers

Dr Michael Fitzgerald
Professor David McKinnon

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