0.2125 score and 0 years ago, I embarked on my PhD. Initially I thought it would be a relative breeze… little did I know that I was entering a field that really hadn’t been that well-researched or defined… using telescopes to undertake some research in the high school classroom. Try as hard as I might, I could not find anywhere that gave a good summary of the field historically and/or as it stood today. Furthermore, a lot of the publications I found tended to be “what we are going to do” focussed rather than “what we did”, let alone “this is how well we did” (which was rare indeed!). These publications themselves were scattered over many journals and conference proceedings, although Astronomy Education Review (rest in peace) did do a good job at keeping it together in one place and more coherently in the later part of the era.
Awash in a sea of literature, I endeavored to piece together the story from the non-arbitrary starting point (early 1990s) when the technology became feasibly available to run these type of projects up until the present day. This was done by summarising the literature that was available as well as interviewing people from nearly every one of the 22 projects identified as well as providing a definition for these style of projects (which I titled ARiC – Astronomy Research in the Classroom – projects).
From these sources, it was not possible to make solid comparisons between projects in terms of relative success but it was possible to present and discuss the issues that arose out of the literature and interviews. The main culprits primarily being the definite lack of evaluation of success in the field preventing such comparisons between what works and what does not as well as the necessity of stable longterm funding for these projects to really start reaping educational results.
The culmination of this research was the acceptance for publication of a 26 page review article in the Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia. The preprint is now up on arxiv, and the abstract is presented below. Enjoy!
A Review of High School Level Astronomy Student Research Projects over the last two decades
Michael T. Fitzgerald, Robert Hollow, Luisa M. Rebull, Lena Danaia, David H. McKinnon
Since the early 1990s with the arrival of a variety of new technologies, the capacity for authentic astronomical research at the high school level has skyrocketed. This potential, however, has not realized the bright-eyed hopes and dreams of the early pioneers who expected to revolutionise science education through the use of telescopes and other astronomical instrumentation in the classroom. In this paper, a general history and analysis of these attempts is presented. We define what we classify as an Astronomy Research in the Classroom (ARiC) project and note the major dimensions on which these projects differ before describing the 22 major student research projects active since the early 1990s. This is followed by a discussion of the major issues identified that affected the success of these projects and provide suggestions for similar attempts in the future.