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Paper: “Lunar Phases Project” as a Foundation for the Development of Innovative Inquiry Based ASTRO 101 Activities Utilizing Existing Concept Inventories as Assessment Tools
Volume: 457, Connecting People to Science
Page: 305
Authors: Mon, M. J.; Meyer, A. O.
Abstract: The cause and process of the lunar phases are difficult concepts for undergraduates and non-science majors to grasp. At Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) we have combined an inquiry-based instructional method (Mental Model Building) which can be more effective increasing students' conceptual understanding of the lunar phase cycle, together with the students' own observations. Undergraduate and non-science major students completed a hands-on project designed to integrate real observations, application of the scientific method, and Mental Model Building to connect the students' own observations to the Earth-Sun-Moon orientations responsible for their findings. Students' learning was assessed by administering the Lunar Phases Concept Inventory (developed by Rebecca S. Lindell and James P. Olsen, Southern Illinois University) before and after students completed the project, with positive results. We describe the methodology and activities utilized in our Lunar Phases Project, and propose their expansion to a variety of astronomical topics for undergraduate non-science majors and pre-service teachers. We emphasize developing and implementing new instructional strategies through the expansion of the Mental Model Building and similar pedagogical methodologies to develop innovative inquiry-based projects and activities in a variety of astronomical topics for undergraduate non-science majors and pre-service teachers. In order to meaningfully assess the new curriculum tools, we recommend utilizing already existing research-validated concept inventories specific to the astronomy content in the curriculum tools. These inventories can be analyzed to determine the conceptual learning gains achieved by the participating students and with further analysis can be used to refine portions of the activity under study.
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