Thousands of New Astronomical Images Highlighted in Latest Release of WorldWide Telescope
Misconception-Oriented Standards-based Assessment Resources for Teachers (MOSART)
Understanding basic scientific concepts is essential for an informed public in a democratic society, but many scientific misconceptions are common. To complicate matters, it’s often difficult for educators to assess conceptual understanding among their students. For that reason, science education researchers at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian have developed Misconception-Oriented Standards-based Assessment Resources for Teachers (MOSART), a suite of assessment instruments for use in the classroom.
Sensing the Dynamic Universe
The Sensing the Dynamic Universe (SDU) project creates sonified videos exploring the multitude of celestial variables such as stars, supernovae, quasars, gamma ray bursts and more. We sonify lightcurves and spectra, making the astrophysics of variables and transients accessible to the general public, with particular attention to accessibility for those with visual and/or neurological differences.
WorldWide Telescope (WWT)
The WorldWide Telescope (WWT) is a free, open-source tool for exploring our knowledge of the universe. It provides planetarium-like views of the sky, as well as dynamic images of planets and other astronomical objects. The project enables users to incorporate images and video into scripts for custom “tours”, for use in classrooms, planetariums, museums, and other multimedia displays. WWT is a project of the American Astronomical Society (AAS), with scientific consultants from universities around the world, including the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian. The WWT Ambassadors are scientists and science educators at CfA who use the WWT in public science outreach and education. WWT is both available as a web browser application and a desktop program for Windows computers.
Young people are generally interested in science across demographics, but for many — particularly girls and students of color — that interest doesn’t lead to subsequent engagement in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields. The Youth Astronomy Network (YouthAstroNet) is a program of the Science Education Department of the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian designed to help middle school-aged students identify as people capable of doing real science. Young people participating in YouthAstroNet use the CfA’s MicroObservatory telescopes to obtain real astronomical data, and connect with scientists and educators through a dedicated online community.
Factors Influencing College Success in STEM
The United States sets educational standards for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in elementary and secondary schools, but preparation for college-level STEM classes varies a lot among students entering university. Owing to a host of background factors, many students may struggle in university introductory science courses and end up feeling discouraged from pursuing STEM degrees and careers. The Science Education Department (SED) at the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian has conducted several ongoing large-scale empirical studies, collectively titled “Factors Influencing College Success in STEM”. These studies look at measurable factors that predict student performance in introductory university STEM classes.
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)
For a number of years, many universities have offered massive open online courses (MOOCs) in addition to traditional in-person classes. MOOCs are designed for much larger numbers of students than normal online classes and encourage students to enroll from outside the university. However, little research exists on how MOOCs compare with ordinary classes in terms of student experience and performance. One major issue is that large numbers of students who start these courses do not complete them. To better understand the reasons behind the high attrition rates, the Science Education Department (SED) of the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian is engaged in two large-scale studies of two MOOCs offered by Harvard University.
Persistence in STEM
The United States consistently has too few science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professionals to support the present and future American high-tech economy. The Science Education Department (SED) of the Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian has conducted a set of large studies, collectively named “Persistence in STEM”, to identify the factors affecting students’ interest in science and related fields. Based on survey responses from thousands of students in many colleges and universities across the United States, the “Persistence in STEM” studies investigate both what encourages and discourages potential STEM majors and professionals.