Murdoch University Research Repository

Welcome to the Murdoch University Research Repository

The Murdoch University Research Repository is an open access digital collection of research
created by Murdoch University staff, researchers and postgraduate students.

Learn more

Learning astronomy and the organisation of astronomy concepts in semantic memory

Smith, Clifton Lawrence (1984) Learning astronomy and the organisation of astronomy concepts in semantic memory. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

PDF - Whole Thesis
Available Upon Request


This study has developed methodologies for the portrayal of knowledge structures as perceived by research groups in the discipline of astronomy. Differences between perceived knowledge structures from expert, high school teacher, and novice learner groups were detected. Instruments were designed to produce proximal data suitable for spatial representation of concepts by the ALSCAL multidimensional scaling procedure. Group knowledge structures were compared by the weighted multidimensional scaling (WMDS) model, an analysis of angular variation (ANAVA) from directional statistics. and the Schonemann-Carroll goodness-of-fit procedure for matrix structure.

The "formal" knowledge structure for the discipline of astronomy was identified separately for expert groups of Perth astronomers (N = 11) and British Columbian astronomers (N = 19). The Directed Response Association Test (DRAT) was completed by both groups of experts, from which the group proximity data were successfully interpreted as 3-dimensional spatial configurations. Test-retest reliability has indicated the stability of expert group conceptual structure. The group knowledge structure for high school teachers (N = 20) differed significantly from the expert group by an ANAVA test.

The effect of the intervention of instruction in elementary astronomy on the group knowledge structure of novice learners was examined. A group of novice learners (N = 51) completed the DRAT instrument both pre- and post-instruction. Group knowledge structures were compared to each other and to the expert group structure by WMDS model, the ANAVA procedure, and the Schonemann-Carroll procedure. All techniques for the comparison of knowledge structure indicated that the novice group structure became more like the expert group structure after instruction.

A replication study was conducted with expert (N = 13) and novice learner (N = 58) group using the Similarity Test of Associative Rating (STAR) instrument. Again 3-dimensional spatial configurations of knowledge structures provided the best interpretation, with the effect of the intervention of instruction apparent. However, from this investigation the DRAT instrument seemed to be more sensitive to the structural changes induced by instruction.

Finally, the feasibility of a methodology for interpretation of the underlying dimensions of the expert group formal knowledge structure was examined. Expert groups of Perth astronomers (N = 13) and British Columbian astronomers (N = 19) were independently administered a bipolar semantic differential Dimensional Interpretation Rating Test (DIRT) instrument. A multiple regression analysis procedure attempted to identify the bipolar scales which best described the dimensions of the expert groups 3-dimensional knowledge structures. Tentative interpretations have been made for the dimensions underlying the expert group knowledge structure.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Education
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Docking, Russell, McGaw, Barry and Lawrence, Jeanette
Item Control Page Item Control Page