Barrier (2010)

The paper describes a programme of intervention with elementary (students aged 8-9) and middle school teachers (students aged 11-14) in the USA, to identify their misconceptions and address them through targeted tuition. The research was funded by NASA and carried out by a university-based researcher.

Learners’ ideas

  • Some teachers think that the Earth is further away from the Sun in winter.
  • Some think the seasons are due to the alignment of the Earth with the Sun and the Moon, failing to correctly link it with the Earth’s tilt.
  • A few teachers confused the cause of winter with nighttime.
  • Some teachers stated that the Sun would be directly overhead at noon on 20th September in North America, which would only be true if the observer were at the equator.
  • Most teachers described the phases of the Moon as being produced by the Earth’s shadow.
  • There was some confusion between orbits and rotation when considering the Moon.


Specific astronomy misconceptions found among elementary and middle school teachers can be addressed with the same activities suitable for their students. This provides measurable improvements in the teachers’ responses after the activities.

Study Structure


Address misconceptions that teachers may have through a series of hands-on astronomy workshops that brought teaching ideas, activities, and resources.

Evidence collection

Evidence was collected via pre-training and post-training tests based on basic astronomical concepts.

Details of the sample

Teachers were targeted with content taught at their students' ages. Teachers of 8- to 9-year-olds had questions on the Earth-Moon-Sun system, teachers of 11- to 12-year-olds had questions on the solar system and teachers of 12- to 14-year-olds were given questions on forces and motion. 

In total 98 teachers took part in the training.

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