Spatial Thinking in Astronomy Education Research
Research on how we learn astronomy, as well as in other STEM domains, has found that spatial thinking – the complex ways we reason about the spatial properties of objects – is central to developing expertise. Learning astronomy requires us to apply understanding about spatial relationships and use spatial information to explain observations and solve new problems. This talk explores the importance of considering the challenges and possibilities of spatial thinking when conducting research on how and why students learn astronomy. I will also discuss trends in research suggesting how we can promote spatial thinking through the design of learning environments and curricula to improve astronomy learning.
Julia Plummer spent more than a decade teaching children and adults in planetariums and other informal settings and continues to teach college-level introductory astronomy and science methods for preservice elementary teachers. Her research interests focus on the design of learning environments that support children’s spatial thinking and science practices in the domain of astronomy. This includes investigating both formal environments, such as classrooms, and informal environments, such as planetariums and museums. Her research has led to the development of astronomy learning progressions focused on explaining celestial motion phenomena and connecting observations of the current Solar System to its formation model. Dr. Plummer has co-authored middle school astronomy curricula and collaborated on the development of planetarium programs for children. Dr. Plummer received a combined Ph.D. in Astronomy & Education from the University of Michigan.