The importance of discourse and attitude in learning astronomy. A mixed methods approach to illuminate the results of the TIMSS 2011 survey.

Trude Nilsen, Carl Angell


The TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) survey carried out in 2011 showed that Norwegian 8th graders reversed a declining trend in science achievement that had lasted almost two decades. However, the only sub-topic that contributed significantly to this turn-around was astronomy. The aim of this study is to explore factors that may have influenced the learning process and led to this high performance. We focused on the characteristics and influence of 1) attitudes towards astronomy and 2) practising astronomy discourse on 3) the conceptual understanding of astronomy. These three were investigated by questionnaire (n=200) and interview (n=32). The findings showed that these students’ reported discourse practices had an influence on their attitudes and that attitude towards astronomy was important to their conceptual understanding of this topic. Students’ attitudes reflected mostly interest and self-efficacy, and they reported practising astronomy discourse through media and discussions inside and outside of school.



astronomy, attitude, discourse, TIMSS 2011, conceptual understanding

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