The application of the planetarium as an education tool

Firniss, Kurt Paul (1981). The application of the planetarium as an education tool. PhD thesis The Open University.



"Planetariums are considered to be educationally valuable Teaching Tools and there seems to exist a Demand for them; but for a Variety of Reasons Planetariums are underused in Education." The study was stimulated by the fact that the planetarium as a theme has been completely neglected by educational research in the very country of its origin, Germany. Limited research done elsewhere is focussed on themes concerned with the selected application of the planetarium but no survey has been undertaken on its wider acceptance and its apparent underuse. A broad spectrum investigation has therefore been conducted, guided by the general hypothesis printed at the head of this abstract. The thesis is presented in 3 chapters: I Introduction with one essay on the "Science of Astronomy" and one essay on the "History , Purpose and Design of the Planetarium"; II The Educational Value and the Educational Potential of the Planetarium and Demand for School Planetariums; III The Underuse of the Planetarium. Actual work was preceded by initial exploratory and pilot surveys which established the relevance of the research problem, the validity of the hypothesis and the feasibility of the project. 6 opinion polls including tests with 535 planetarium visitors were conducted both internationally and nationally and also literature was evaluated in order to determine opinions and attitudes about the educational value and the educational potential of the planetarium and the demand for planetariums. All those concerned with the planetarium in one capacity or other were involved. The planetarium's intrinsic value was assessed from a study of the scope and quality of its functions as a teaching tool. Experiments performed in the planetarium confirmed the planetarium's effectiveness in both the cognitive and affective domains. Demand was also established on the level of the Ministries of Education but could not be confirmed as being known to the manufacturers. The underuse of the planetarium and many reasons responsible for it were confirmed by 9 further surveys. 20 surveys and 5 experiments involving the participation of N = 1187 subjects were conducted, and an advertising campaign with 2420 schools for school planetariums has been evaluated. The hypothesis was essentially supported by the results of the surveys conducted.

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