those working on learning progressions (Mohan, Chen, and Anderson, 2009; Plummer and Krajcik, 2010; Schwarz et al., 2009). Research on the conceptual understanding of pre- and in-service K-12 teachers (Dahl, Anderson, and Libarkin, 2005; Kusnick, 2002) also may be a fruitful area of common ground between the two research communities.

Finally, the committee identified some discipline-specific needs for future research. More information is needed in engineering, biology, and the geosciences to design assessments that can diagnose students’ difficulties and to design instruction to move them toward more accurate understanding. Chemistry education could benefit from additional measures that specifically target students’ conceptual understanding because only a few such measures exist—to date, chemistry education researchers have used a variety of other tools to uncover and document incorrect ideas and beliefs. In astronomy, the next generation of assessment instruments is emerging, including assessments for general astronomy (Slater, Slater, and Bailey, 2011) and for targeted topic areas such as stars and stellar evolution (Bailey et al., 2011), light and spectra (Bardar, Prather, and Slater, 2006), planetary science (Hornstein et al., 2011), and the influence of gravity (Lindell and Sommer, 2003). The goal of this next generation of instruments is to reveal the underlying cognitive processes undergraduates use when thinking about these topics in astronomy. Research also is needed on students’ cognition and spatial thinking skills to more fully explore undergraduates’ conceptual understanding in astronomy. In physics, research on the underlying cognitive processes learners use when engaging in physics and how these might change as learners progress from novice to more expert perspectives has already begun. Although this type of research is more difficult and time-consuming than cataloging misconceptions, and might not be immediately applicable to instruction, it has the potential to generate broader insights about student understanding that could be relevant to many disciplines.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement