Shannon Schmoll Dissertation Defense "Toward a Framework for Integrating Planetarium and Classroom Learning"
Field trips are a ubiquitous part of modern school programs and can offer exciting, engaging, and authentic experience for students to learn science. There has been extensive research on how to best integrate field trips with classroom instruction so they can reach their full potential. Planetariums are often ignored in this literature, which is unfortunate as they are more didactic and structured environments than other informal spaces such as museums, but can still offer positive affect and learning gains to students outside of the classroom. The goal of this dissertation is to address the unique aspects of learning in planetariums as informal settings. This is done by testing a curriculum on apparent celestial motion that integrates the planetarium and classroom environments based on the School-Museum Integrated Learning Experiences in Science (SMILES) (Griffin, 1998) framework for integrating classroom and museum learning. Data in the form of interviews, class work, audio-visual recordings, and surveys were analyzed using qualitative and quantitative methods to find examples of the 6 strands of informal learning (National Research Council, 2012) and suggest revisions to the SMILES framework for use with planetariums. The results showed examples of all 6 strands of informal learning, suggesting the SMILES framework was appropriate for planetarium field trips. However, weaknesses in students’ descriptions of apparent celestial motion, reasoning skills, social interactions, and language use suggested revisions to the SMILES framework for use with planetariums.