Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.


Middle and Secondary Education

Degree Program

Curriculum and Instruction, PhD

Committee Chair

Tretter, Tom

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Brown, Sherri

Committee Member

Brown, Sherri

Committee Member

Chisholm, James

Committee Member

McFadden, Justin

Committee Member

Ingle, William

Author's Keywords

informal science education; planetarium; student attitudes in planetariums; student learning in planetariums; student thinking in planetariums


The purpose of this study was to examine the role of the planetarium on students while learning astronomy. The main goals of this study were to evaluate changes in students’ attitudes towards astronomy, whether students learned and retained more knowledge due to planetarium-enriched instruction, and how the planetarium helped students think about astronomical concepts. The framework that guided this study was the Contextual Model of Learning (CML) (Falk & Dierking, 1992; 2000), which includes three overlapping contexts that contribute to the overall learning experience in informal science venues - the personal, physical, and sociocultural contexts. The planetarium program was successful in reaching students in all three contexts of the CML, which contributed to students’ positive experiences during this study. The results of this study showed that the immersive environment and unique capabilities of a digital planetarium positively influenced students’ attitudes, learning, retention, and thinking. This study has important implications for planetariums, informal science education researchers, and schools.