This project provides a virtual environment in which high school physics students can engage in the cutting edge science of studying exoplanets. Using online telescopes and learning software, students gain a deeper understanding of science inquiry, including reasoning from models, gathering assessing, and interpreting authentic data, and drawing conclusions from multiple line of evidence. The research advances our understanding of ways to increase students' knowledge of data literacy.
The Laboratory for the Study of Extra Solar Planets: Fostering Data Literacy provides a virtual environment in which high school students in physics classes engage in the cutting edge science of studying exoplanets. The project builds on previous work and serves as an example and test bed for integrating science practice, crosscutting concepts and science content as called for in the Framework for the Next Generation Science Standards. The project produces seven mini-labs that scaffold students in the detection of orbits of exoplanets around their stars. These include learning to use models, learning to use the telescope, working with data, applying concepts to interpret data and creating a 3-D interactive model based on their data. In three more laboratories on infrared and spectroscopy, students learn to apply core concepts and modeling to identify some of the properties of the exoplanets. Using online telescopes and learning software, students gain a deeper understanding of science inquiry, including reasoning from models, gathering assessing, and interpreting authentic data, and drawing conclusions from multiple line of evidence. Teacher support includes in-class support on start-up, online professional development, and interaction with the scientific community. The previous work has been shown to have strong potential for engaging girls and also students in underserved communities in urban areas.
The overarching research question is how students learn to make sense of data. What are the tools that can help them move efficiently from their initial ideas to more sophisticated understandings? The research focuses on three areas that are fundamental to data literacy: reasoning from models, assessing the quality of the data and interpreting data and understanding uncertainty. Qualitative data are gathered in the first year and scored using a rubric developed by experts. In year two, more quantitative measures are employed. Assessment instruments, using items from validated assessments, are created and psychometrically validated.
The outcomes of this project are a unique online Laboratory that is universally accessible to all classrooms and that engages students in meaningful scientific data collection, analysis, visualization, modeling and interpretation at one of the most exciting research frontiers in current science. The activities and assessments transform astronomy into an inquiry-based subject that significantly increases students' understanding of science practice and content as well as their science attitudes, interest, and identity. The research advances our understanding of ways to increase students' knowledge of data literacy, which is widely useful in science education across all disciplines.
Previous project title: Laboratory for the Study of Alien Worlds: A National Resource for Students and Teachers