Generating epistemic change through utilizing nature of science material within astronomy

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


At universities across the United States the epistemological beliefs of students have been observed to deteriorate after a semester of instruction in an introductory physics course. What this indicates is that after taking a course in physics most students, for example, may become less capable of delineating between evidence- based reasoning and mere opinion, less likely to believe that they can get better at physics by doing physics, and/or less likely to engage in metacognitive practices. This research proposed that additional course material, based predominantly on the Nature of Science (i.e. the tenets of science) would help prevent this decay of epistemic beliefs. To test this, two years of epistemic data were collected on students in an introductory astronomy class during which time no changes to the course were made. This was subsequently followed by three years of epistemic data collection on students in the same introductory astronomy class in which explicit Nature of Science material had been included. Epistemic data were collected using the Epistemological Belief Assessment for Physical Science (EBAPS). Results indicated that these course modifications helped to prevent epistemological decay, specifically with respect to student views about science and student beliefs about the role of hard work as compared to natural ability. In order to help identify the impact of the additional material, a complete epistemological framework was identified using student responses to the EBAPS. Functionally, this represents a baseline off which future epistemic work may be conducted within science, as well as outlining a methodology for discovering the complete epistemological framework within students of any study utilizing an epistemic instrument such as the Epistemological Belief Assessment for Physical Science or the Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey. This work also provides further insight into how students are responding to a prominent epistemological instrument within physics, the EBAPS, for which little validation work is present in literature.




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