Fran Riga is a research student in science education, with a particular
interest in teaching and learning in astronomy. She also teaches,
and works part-time as a research assistant in the Faculty of Education.
Her supervisor is Keith Taber *
Fran Riga undertook an MEd in Educational Research (supervised by
J. G. A. Raffan), and she is currently a part-time graduate student registered
for the degree of PhD.
Fran submitted her MEd thesis in 2002. She investigated (a) teachers’ views
on the Earth and Beyond module at three schools - by conducting interviews,
and, (b) students’ opinions on astronomy - by analysing 244 questionnaires
which focused on both the students’ knowledge and their perceptions.
Fran is exploring this field further in her current doctoral project:
Students’ Ideas in Astronomy : science or fiction ?
There is a considerable mass of literature concerned with examining pupils’
thinking and understanding of astronomy, yet relatively little focuses on
students of secondary school age. The aim of this empirical study is to determine
students’ ideas and explore their thinking in a number of topics central to
the study of astronomy. Finding out students’ ideas and the ways in which
they understand and/or interpret these topics will serve as the departure
point of the project, forming the framework for an exploration of how these
ideas are derived and evolve. An attempt will be made to outline a model of
the learning pathway of the students studied. Finally, the role of students’
ideas, and misconceptions in particular, in the learning pathway will be investigated,
and an attempt will be made to discern the extent to which certain ideas/misconceptions,
previously identified in the study, facilitate, impede or prevent students
from achieving a clear understanding of concepts in astronomy.
Fran may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
* Dr. Keith S. Taber teaches in the Faculty of Education
at the University of Cambridge. He supervises student research projects in
aspects of teaching and learning science. His interests include topics such
as: conceptual development in science, 'misconceptions', alternative conceptions,
intermediate conceptions, conceptual frameworks, conceptual resources for
learning (p-prims etc), aspects of student conceptual structure (manifold
conceptions, stability, coherence of ideas etc.) in science, models in teaching
and learning science, aspects of language in teaching and learning science
(analogy, metaphor, tautology, anthropomorphism), conceptual progression
and integration, learning pathways / trajectories, explanations in science,
the relationship between the sciences and schools science, teaching and learning
about the nature of science, teaching the gifted/highly able in science,
scaffolding learning in science, constructivism in science education, the
development of a progressive research programme into learning science…