A New Curriculum Development Model for Improving Undergraduate Students’ Data Literacy and Self-Efficacy in Online Astronomy Classrooms


  • Molly N. Simon Arizona State University
  • Edward E. Prather
  • Isaac S. Rosenthal
  • Michael Cassidy
  • James K. L. Hammerman
  • Laura Trouille




Self-efficacy, Citizen science, Data literacy, Curriculum development, Higher education


There is a critical need for research-based active learning instructional materials for the teaching and learning of STEM in online courses. Every year, hundreds of thousands of undergraduate non-science majors enroll in general education astronomy courses to fulfill their institution’s liberal arts requirements. When designing instructional materials for this population of learners, a central focus must be to help learners become more scientifically and data literate. As such, we developed a new, three-part, curricular model that was used to inform the creation of active-learning instructional materials designed for use in online courses to help introductory astronomy students improve their ability to make evidence-based conclusions when presented with a variety of data representations, while increasing their self-efficacy with respect to engaging meaningfully in science. We conducted a pilot study of these instructional materials at nine different colleges and universities to better understand whether students’ engagement with these materials lead to increases in self-efficacy, and whether faculty who implemented the materials were able to easily incorporate our active learning materials into their existing online astronomy courses. Overall, we found a statistically significant improvement in students' self-efficacy after engaging with our instructional materials in their online courses. The results of the item-by-item analysis indicated that students’ beliefs improved most on the questions that assessed their ability to make meaningful contributions to scientific research, and their confidence using data representations to interpret an array of scientific questions. The instructor feedback emphasized that our curriculum development model could successfully inform the creation of instructional materials that were easy to implement in existing online astronomy classes, and supported course learning objectives, creating the potential for widespread dissemination and use at the undergraduate level.