Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

What do Astronomers Do: A Survey of U.S. Astronomers' Attitudes, Tools and Techniques, and Social Interactions Engaged in through their Practice of Science
by Spuck, Timothy S., Ed.D., West Virginia University, 2017, 181; 10616586
Abstract (Summary)

Astronomy is one of the oldest STEM enterprises today. It is a discipline through which technology has been advanced, as well as our understanding of the universe. Further, astronomy is a gateway science that inspires the imagination of young learners, and can be used to promote STEM careers. In order to advance the astronomy enterprise, we must maintain an informed citizenry. The practice of astronomy has changed over time; astronomy today is much different than it was 50 years ago. In an effort to identify the current practice of astronomy, or what it is that today’s astronomers do, 478 U.S. astronomers participated in the study focusing on their engagement in three areas of scientific practice; science attitudes, tools and techniques, and social interactions. In addition, astronomers’ perceptions about career choice, work-related activities they engage in, motivations for doing astronomy, and changes needed in education were also explored. Data were collected over a 3-month time period via an online survey and telephone interviews. Data provided by survey participants provides a solid foundation from which findings and conclusions are drawn. Today’s population of astronomers is largely white, male, and older, however moving toward gender balance. The population as a whole places great importance on the practice of attitudes such as thinking critically, respecting the evidence, honesty, and objectivity. Unlike many might think, astronomers spend little time at the telescope collecting data, but rather the vast majority of their time is spent working at a computer. Further, engaging in administrative duties, writing, use of mathematics, searching for funding, mentoring others, and collaborating with colleagues are all critical tools/techniques and social skills in the practice of astronomy today. Finally, pop culture and personal experience plays a significant role in attracting individuals to a career in astronomy, and exploration and uncovering that which is unknown, the thrill of discovery, is what keeps them motivated. This study identified and quantified the activities in which professional astronomers engage, and the findings can be used to design formal and informal learning experiences K through adult to more closely reflect the science of astronomy and the people who engage in the practice.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Rye, Jim
Commitee: Iannone, Ron, Pisano, D.J., Smith, Bruce
School: West Virginia University
Department: Education and Human Services
School Location: United States -- West Virginia
Source: DAI-A 79/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Science education, Curriculum development
Keywords: Astronomers, Astronomy, Authentic learning, Practice of science, Science attitudes, Science social interactions
Publication Number: 10616586
ISBN: 9780355155037
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