Comparing students’ knowledge of the apparent motion of the Sun and stars across four European countries
Keywords:Apparent motion, Scientific reasoning, Mental models, conceptual understanding
In the context of the European Erasmus+ project Teaching ASTronomy at the Educational level (TASTE), we investigated to what extent secondary school students of four participating countries (Belgium, Germany, Greece and Italy) have insight in the Apparent Motion of the Sun and Stars. The systematic design of the AMoSS test instrument allowed us to detect differences in understanding of the apparent motion of the Sun and stars. We administered the test with 12 multiple choice questions to 13-17 years old students of 5 European secondary schools (N=348) during a science lesson in school. We also asked them to explain their choices. We found similar results in the four countries: most students only demonstrate a rudimentary understanding of the apparent motion of the Sun and stars for different times during the day, different times during the year and different locations of the observer on Earth. Moreover, we see a clear distinction between the responses to the Sun-related and the star-related questions. In general, the questions about the Sun are answered more correctly than the questions about the stars. By using one classification system for the four countries we were able to compare written explanations in different languages. In combination with a latent class analysis, we identified different mental models that students use to answer questions about the apparent motion of the Sun and stars.