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Preconceptions: Private Universe

This material was originally created for On the Cutting Edge: Professional Development for Geoscience Faculty
and is replicated here as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service.
Don Minkel, Adirondack Community College
Course: Introduction to Astronomy
22 students
This activity is designed to inform students about how misconceptions can interfere with the learning process, and to alert them to their own misconceptions.

The Activity

As a whole-class activity we take the "A Private Universe" quiz, a five-question quiz on fundamental concepts in astronomy. As we take the quiz we compare the class results to the results of surveyed teachers. The students do not do significantly worse but neither group does very well. We then watch the associated 20 minute video that shows how clinging to preconceptions often blocks learning, even in good students. Class discussion is interspersed throughout.

Additional Information

A Private Universe was created and produced by Matthew H. Schneps and Philip M. Sadler, Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Partial funding for "A Private Universe" was provided by the National Science Foundation.