Linking introductory astronomy students' basic science knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, sources of information, and information literacy

Sanlyn R. Buxner, Chris D. Impey, James Romine, Megan Nieberding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


[This paper is part of the Focused Collection on Astronomy Education Research.] We report on a study of almost 13 000 undergraduate students enrolled in introductory astronomy courses at the University of Arizona. From 1989 to 2016, students completed a basic science knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes survey. From 2014 to 2016, a subset of the sample completed an additional survey that probed their overall interest in science and astronomy, where they reported getting information about science, and their judgment of those sources. Our sample of mostly nonscience major students outperformed the general public on basic science knowledge questions during the time of the study. Additionally, there was very little change over the range of time of the study in students' basic science knowledge whose scores averaged around 79% correct over the 27 years. Students' self-reported demographic information and beliefs and attitudes in science and technology accounted for only 11% of the variance in their science knowledge scores and there was no systematic pattern between where students reported getting their information about science and their basic science knowledge. Despite this, there was a relationship between how students rated the reliability of sources and their science knowledge. Our findings support that introductory astronomy courses are opportunities to improve students' attitudes towards science and ability to evaluate scientific information. Although this group of students' basic science knowledge and attitudes remained relatively unchanged over 27 years there was a measurable relationship between students' beliefs and attitudes, interest, science knowledge, and information literacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number010142
JournalPhysical Review Physics Education Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 15 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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