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  • Rights: The University of Waikato Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato
    Published 22 March 2019 Referencing Hub media

    Teacher Matt Boucher explains his focus for assessment when his students participated in two online citizen science (OCS) projects interpreting light graphs to help scientists hunt for exoplanets

    Find out more about the light unit and about the two online citizen science projects (Planet Hunters and Agent Exoplanet) that Matt used in this case study.



    It supported what I was doing, which was learning about light and the properties of light, which is part of the Physical World. It also helped with Planet Earth and Beyond and look at astronomical data and stars and planets and how they work. As far as Nature of Science, understanding about science was really important – so understanding how science works and what the process was.

    And as I modelled each step for them up to the interpretation of the data and then the end when a scientist would analyse it and figure out what kind of planets they found – putting that whole thing together helped them to understand the entire process even though they were only intimately involved with one part of it.

    Interpreting representations was the main science capability that it worked on – that’s the main thrust of what they were doing was helping to create the graphs with data and then to look at data and graphs that were already created in order to see if they could find a planet or the signature of a planet within the data with Agent Exoplanet.

    The evidence I have for their learning is a little hard to pick out specifically because it was part of the wider unit, but what I saw was in formative assessment. As I was talking to students, looking over their shoulders, there was a lot of good rich discussions between students and with me specifically around what they were looking at, creating the graphs, what the data might’ve meant and so that was really important to see both the engagement but that they were understanding and asking intelligent questions about what they were doing, which showed again that they understood the task.

    For summative assessment at the end, we modelled what scientists would do in sharing their findings by doing a little bit of research around finding exoplanets that were discovered using this transiting exoplanet method and talking about some of its properties.

    This might not have been specifically linked to ones that they found using the graphs because it’s hard to tease that out with the OCS, but it meant that they really understood all the properties that were involved in that and how they would have been found. So it was a lot more of a deep learning task and showed a lot more of their understanding than if we had simply skipped the first part and just gone straight onto research.

    Matt Boucher and his students from South Wellington Intermediate School
    Victoria University of Wellington
    The Teaching & Learning Research Initiative
    Agent Exoplanet, Las Cumbres Observatory
    Planet Hunters TESS
    Exoplanets 101, managed by the Exoplanet Exploration Program and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, courtesy of NASA’s Astrophysics Division
    The nature of science in the curriculum and Planet hunting resources, Science Learning Hub – Pokapū Akoranga Pūtaiao

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