|Ph.D Student||Hans Meytal|
|Subject||Learning Processes and Spatial Ability Development with|
Regards to the Phases of the Moon: The Effect of
a Web-Based Module
|Department||Department of Education in Science and Technology||Supervisors||Professor Yael Kali|
|Dr. Yoav Yair|
|Full Thesis text - in Hebrew|
The present research explores students’ spatial perception of the moon-phases phenomenon and their general spatial abilities, as those develop while students interact with a web-based module. A special focus was put on detailed characterization of the process through which students develop these abilities, and on the role that the physical and computerized models, embedded in the module, play in this process.
Participants included: 116 seventh grade school-students; 67 eighth to ninth grade space-club students; 17 college students; a comparative (control) group of 30 seventh grade school-students. Additionally, eight pairs of sixth to eighth grade students as case-studies.
Quantitative analysis of a pre- and post-questionnaire showed that: (a) Both the school-students and space-club students significantly improved their ability to solve problems that require understanding the connection between the internal (geocentric) view and the external (space) view of the moon-phases phenomenon. This improvement was probably caused by their learning with the module, because the college students and the control group of school students did not show such improvement.
(b) The school-students and space-club students significantly improved in one of the sub-questionnaires that require general spatial abilities - the ability to switch between frames of reference, and the ability of mental rotation. This hints to a causal relationship between the ability to solve problems related to the moon-phases and spatial abilities, because the comparative group did not show such improvements. More research is required to explore the nature of this relationship.
Micro-analysis of the learning process of the case-study students showed that students progressed in four levels of understanding: (1) understanding of the phenomenon from an internal view; (2) being aware to the fact that the moon will look different from an internal view and an external one; (3) full understanding of the relationship between the internal and external views, including the ability to switch between them; (4) understanding moon-rise and moon-set. It seems that in order to fully understand the moon-phases phenomenon, the learner needs to consider many details, which create a great cognitive load.
The findings of this study provide an important contribution to the body of knowledge regarding how students learn concepts in astronomy and its relationship to general spatial abilities. This has important implications for curriculum designers and policymakers. The factors that were found as important supports for learning, are likely to assists students in understanding other topics in astronomy and in other areas that require spatial abilities.