Personal Universes: revealing community college students’ competences though their organization of the cosmos

  • Zoë Buck Bracey
Original Paper


In this article I present a study on learners’ conceptions in cosmology by situating the results in the context of broader historical and sociocultural themes. Participants were community college students in California from non-dominant cultural and linguistic backgrounds finishing their first semester of astronomy. Data were collected through a drawing activity and card sort given during clinical-style interviews. This type of work is typically done from the perspective of conceptual change theory, using drawings to reveal student “misconceptions.” I argue that in analyzing this kind of data, we need to come from the perspective that students are competent, and put their conceptions in context. I begin by presenting traditional frameworks for evaluating and describing learning, all of which rely on an outdated “banking” or “transmission” model of learning that puts an over-emphasis on the performance and attributes of individuals. Not only do these theories provide an incomplete picture of what learning looks like, they create and reify unnecessary divides between “scientific” and “unscientific” that can contribute to student alienation from the world of science. To illustrate this, I present my own results as a window into the logic of learners’ assumptions within a sociocultural context, and suggest ways to support their learning trajectories, rather than figuring out how to unlearn their misconceptions. Through this analysis, I hope to show how taking student conceptions out of sociocultural context can potentially exclude students from non-dominant cultural and linguistic backgrounds from science.


Astronomy Community college Equity Student ideas 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.BSCSColorado SpringsUSA

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