Edward E Prather
- Professor, Astronomy
- Ph.D. Physics
- University of Maine, Orono, Maine, United States
- An Investigation Into What Students Think and How They Learn About Ionizing Radiation and Radioactivity
- B.S. Physics and Astronomy
- University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, United States
- Bellevue Community College, Bellevue, Washington, United States
- Eller College Student's Choice Award for Outstanding Faculty
- Eller College of Management, Fall 2017
- William Holmes McGuffey Longevity Award
- Textbook & Academic Author's Association (TAA), Fall 2017
- Richard Ruiz Outstanding Faculty Fellow in a Specialized Center Award
- University of Arizona, Spring 2016
- University of Arizona, Henry and Phyllis Koffler Prize
- UA Provost Office, Spring 2016
No activities entered.
Directed ResearchASTR 492 (Spring 2019)
The Physical UniverseASTR 170B1 (Spring 2019)
Directed ResearchASTR 492 (Spring 2018)
The Physical UniverseASTR 170B1 (Spring 2018)
Directed ResearchASTR 392 (Spring 2017)
Directed ResearchASTR 492 (Spring 2017)
The Physical UniverseASTR 170B1 (Spring 2017)
- Prather, E. E., Adams, J. P., Slater, T. F., & Brissenden, G. (2014). Lecture-Tutorials for Introductory Astronomy, 5th Custom Edition.
- Burd, G. D., Burd, G. D., Tomanek, D. J., Tomanek, D. J., Blowers, P., Blowers, P., Bolger, M. S., Bolger, M. S., Cox, J., Cox, J., Elfring, L. K., Elfring, L. K., Grubbs, E. A., Grubbs, E. A., Hunter, J., Hunter, J., Johns, K. A., Johns, K. A., Lazos, L., , Lazos, L., et al. (2015). Developing faculty cultures for evidence-based teaching practices in STEM: A progress report.. In Transforming Institutions: 21st Century Undergraduate STEM. West Lafayette, IN.: Purdue University Press.
- Eckenrode, J. W., Prather, E. E., & Wallace, C. @. (2016). Correlations Between Students’ Written Responses to Lecture-Tutorial Questions and Their Understandings of Key Astrophysics Concepts. Journal of College Science Teaching, 45(3).
- Wallace, C. S., Chambers, T. G., Prather, E. E., & Brissenden, G. (2016). Using Graphical and Pictorial Representations to Teach Introductory Astronomy Students About the Detection of Extrasolar Planets Via Gravitational Microlensing. American Journal of Physics, 84(5). doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/1.4943035
- Wallace, C. S., Prather, E. E., Hornstein, S. D., Burns, J. O., Schlingman, W. M., & Chambers, T. G. (2016). Moving Beyond the Bohr Model: A New Lecture-Tutorial for Teaching Astro 101 Students about Molecular Vibrations, Molecular Rotations, and Synchrotron Radiation. The Physics Teacher, 54(1).
- Williamson, K. E., Prather, E. E., & Willoughby, S. (2016). Applicability of the Newtonian Gravity Concept Inventory to Introductory College Physics Classes. American Journal of Physics, 84(6). doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/1.4945347
- Follette, K. B., McCarthy, D., Doktor, E., Buxner, S., & Prather, E. E. (2014). The Quantitative Reasoning for College Science (QuaRCS) Assessment I: Development and Validation. Numeracy.
- Wallace, C. S., Prather, E. E., Hornstein, S. D., & Schlingman, W. M. (2014). Moving Beyond the Bohr Model: A New Lecture-Tutorial for Teaching Astro 101 Students about Molecular Vibrations, Molecular Rotations, and Synchrotron Radiation. The Physics Teacher.
- Wooten, M. M., Cool, A. M., Prather, E. E., & Tanner, K. D. (2014). Comparison of performance on multiple-choice questions and open-ended questions in an introductory astronomy laboratory. Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research.More infoWhen considering the variety of questions that can be used to measure students’ learning, instructors may choose to use multiple-choice questions, which are easier to score than responses to open-ended questions. However, by design, analyses of multiple-choice responses cannot describe all of students’ understanding. One method that can be used to learn more about students’ learning is the analysis of the open-ended responses students’ provide when explaining their multiple-choice response. In this study, we examined the extent to which introductory astronomy students’ performance on multiple-choice questions was comparable to their ability to provide evidence when asked to respond to an open-ended question. We quantified students’ open-ended responses by developing rubrics that allowed us to score the amount of relevant evidence students’ provided. A minimum rubric score was determined for each question based on two astronomy educators perception of the minimum amount of evidence needed to substantiate a scientifically accurate multiple-choice response. The percentage of students meeting both criteria of (1) attaining the minimum rubric score and (2) selecting the correct multiple-choice response was examined at three different phases of instruction: directly before lab instruction, directly after lab instruction, and at the end of the semester. Results suggested that a greater proportion of students were able to choose the correct multiple-choice response than were able to provide responses that attained the minimum rubric score at both the post-lab and post-instruction phases.
- Prather, E. E., Cormier, S., Wallace, C. S., Lintott, C., Raddick, M. J., & Smith, A. (2013). Measuring the conceptual understandings of citizen scientists participating in zooniverse projects: A first approach. Astronomy Education Review, 12(1).More infoAbstract: The Zooniverse projects turn everyday people into "citizen scientists" who work online with real data to assist scientists in conducting research on a variety of topics related to galaxies, exoplanets, lunar craters, and solar flares, among others. This paper describes our initial study to assess the conceptual knowledge and reasoning abilities of citizen scientists participating in two Zooniverse projects: Galaxy Zoo and Moon Zoo. In order to measure their knowledge and abilities, we developed two new assessment instruments, the Zooniverse Astronomical Concept Survey (ZACS) and the Lunar Cratering Concept Inventory (LCCI). We found that citizen scientists with the highest level of participation in the Galaxy Zoo and Moon Zoo projects also have the highest average correct scores on the items of the ZACS and LCCI. However, the limited nature of the data provided by Zooniverse participants prevents us from being able to evaluate the statistical significance of this finding, and we make no claim about whether there is a causal relationship between one's participation in Galaxy Zoo or Moon Zoo and one's level of conceptual understanding or reasoning ability on the astrophysical topics assessed by the ZACS or the LCCI. Overall, both the ZACS and the LCCI provide Zooniverse's citizen scientists with items that offer a wide range of difficulties. Using the data from the small subset of participants who responded to all items of the ZACS, we found evidence suggesting the ZACS is a reliable instrument (α=0.78), although twenty-one of its forty items appear to have point biserials less than 0.3. The work reported here provides significant insight into the strengths and limitations of various methods for administering assessments to citizen scientists. Researchers who wish to study the knowledge and abilities of citizen scientists in the future should be sure to design their research methods to avoid the pitfalls identified by our initial findings. © 2013 The American Astronomical Society.
- Wallace, C. S., Prather, E. E., & Mendelsohn, B. M. (2013). Astro 101 students' perceptions of science: Results from the Thinking about science survey instrument. Astronomy Education Review, 12(1), 1-28.More infoAbstract: What are the underlying worldviews and beliefs about the role of science in society held by students enrolled in a college-level, general education, introductory astronomy course (Astro 101)-and are those beliefs affected by active engagement instruction shown to significantly increase students' conceptual knowledge and reasoning abilities related to astronomy? To help answer this question, we administered Cobern's (Cobern 2001) Thinking About Science Survey Instrument (TSSI) to an Astro 101 class in the spring 2011. The TSSI probes students' beliefs about the relationship between science and many aspects of contemporary society. In this paper, we analyze the 442 pre-instruction and 294 post-instruction student responses we received to the TSSI. Many students select responses to the TSSI's items indicating they have positive views about the role of science in society. We also see a slight increase in the number of positive responses pre- to post-instruction. While there are limitations to the inferences one can draw from responses to a Likert scale survey such as the TSSI, this work nevertheless provides an important first step in a larger project to understand and affect the worldviews of general education, introductory astronomy students. To better interpret the significance of these results, we conclude by comparing the TSSI data to preliminary data from a related study in which we collected students' written responses to a series of provocative, open-ended prompts on the relationship between science and society. © 2013 The American Astronomical Society.
- Williamson, K. E., Willoughby, S., & Prather, E. E. (2013). Development of the Newtonian gravity concept inventory. Astronomy Education Review, 12(1).More infoAbstract: We introduce the Newtonian Gravity Concept Inventory (NGCI), a 26-item multiple-choice instrument to assess introductory general education college astronomy ("Astro 101") student understanding of Newtonian gravity. This paper describes the development of the NGCI through four phases: Planning, Construction, Quantitative Analysis, and Validation. We discuss the evolution of the instrument through three versions, including the refinement of a set of four concept domains and nine examples of items to illustrate how expert review, student interviews, and Classical Test Theory statistics informed our approach. We conclude that the NGCI is a reliable and valid instrument. © 2013 The American Astronomical Society.
- Bailey, J. M., Johnson, B., Prather, E. E., & Slater, T. F. (2012). Development and Validation of the Star Properties Concept Inventory. International Journal of Science Education, 34(14), 2257-2286.More infoAbstract: Concept inventories (CIs)-typically multiple-choice instruments that focus on a single or small subset of closely related topics-have been used in science education for more than a decade. This paper describes the development and validation of a new CI for astronomy, the Star Properties Concept Inventory (SPCI). Questions cover the areas of stellar properties (focussing primarily on mass, temperature, luminosity, and lifetime), nuclear fusion, and star formation. Distracters were developed from known alternative conceptions and reasoning difficulties commonly held by students. The SPCI was tested through an iterative process where different testing formats (open-ended, multiple-choice + explain, and multiple-choice) were compared to ensure that the distracters were in fact the most common among the testing population. Content validity was established through expert reviews by 26 astronomy instructors. The SPCI Version 3 was then tested in multiple introductory undergraduate astronomy courses for non-science majors. Post-test scores (out of 23 possible) were significantly greater (M = 11.8, SD = 3.87) than the pre-test scores (M = 7.09, SD = 2.73). The low post-test score-only 51.3%-could indicate a need for changing instructional strategies on the topics of stars and star formation. © 2012 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.
- Wallace, C. S., & Prather, E. E. (2012). Teaching physics with Hubble's law and dark matter. American Journal of Physics, 80(5), 382-390.More infoAbstract: Physics instructors can enrich, enliven, and enhance their courses with conceptually rich cosmology content. In this paper, we specifically discuss how instructors can integrate lessons on Hubble's law (as it relates to the expansion of the universe and dark energy) and spiral galaxies' rotation curves (as they relate to the presence of dark matter) into an introductory, college-level course on mechanics. These cosmology topics intersect with the content of introductory physics in a number of areas, such as students' abilities to read and interpret graphs and their conceptual understandings of both kinematics and dynamics. Throughout this paper, we draw upon the results from, and research-validated curricula informed by, physics and astronomy education research. In particular, we feature the results from a national study we recently completed with introductory college-level general education astronomy students on the teaching and learning of cosmology. © 2012 American Association of Physics Teachers.
- Wallace, C. S., Prather, E. E., & Duncan, D. K. (2012). A Study of General Education Astronomy Students' Understandings of Cosmology. Part V. The Effects of a New Suite of Cosmology Lecture-Tutorials on Students' Conceptual Knowledge. International Journal of Science Education, 34(9), 1297-1314.More infoAbstract: This is the final paper in a five-paper series describing our national study of the teaching and learning of cosmology in general education astronomy college-level courses. A significant portion of this work was dedicated to the development of five new Lecture-Tutorials that focus on addressing the conceptual and reasoning difficulties that our research shows students have with frequently taught cosmology topics, such as the expansion of the universe, the Big Bang, and dark matter. We conducted a systematic investigation of the implementation of these new Lecture-Tutorials and resulting learning gains in order to test the efficacy of these new Lecture-Tutorials. Our investigation included classroom observations, results from pre-post testing using four conceptual cosmology surveys, and comparisons between classes in terms of the class time spent on cosmology topics and other instructional strategies used to teach cosmology. We used this combination of qualitative and quantitative research results to evaluate the conceptual understandings of students who used the new cosmology Lecture-Tutorials compared to those students who did not. The analysis of our data shows that, in many cases, classrooms that used the cosmology Lecture-Tutorials saw a greater increase in their students' conceptual cosmology knowledge compared to classrooms that did not use the cosmology Lecture-Tutorials. However, our results also indicate how instructors implement the Lecture-Tutorials into their classrooms strongly influences their students' learning gains. © 2012 Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.
- Prather, E. E., Rudolph, A. L., & Brissenden, G. (2009). Teaching and learning astronomy in the 21st century. Physics Today, 62(10), 41-47.
- Prather, E. E., Rudolph, A. L., Brissenden, G., & Schlingman, W. M. (2009). A national study assessing the teaching and learning of introductory astronomy. Part I. the effect of interactive instruction. American Journal of Physics, 77(4), 320-330.More infoAbstract: We present the results of a national study on the teaching and learning of astronomy as taught in general education, non-science-major, introductory astronomy courses. Nearly 4000 students enrolled in 69 sections of courses taught by 36 different instructors at 31 institutions completed (pre- and post-instruction) the Light and Spectroscopy Concept Inventory (LSCI) from Fall 2006 to Fall 2007. The classes varied in size and were from all types of institutions, including 2- and 4-year colleges and universities. Normalized gain scores for each class were calculated. Pre-instruction LSCI scores were clustered around ∼25%, independent of class size and institution type, and normalized gain scores varied from about -0.07 to 0.50. To estimate the fraction of classroom time spent on learner-centered, active-engagement instruction we developed and administered an Interactivity Assessment Instrument (IAI). Our results suggest that the differences in gains were due to instruction in the classroom, not the type of class or institution. We also found that higher interactivity classes had the highest gains, confirming that interactive learning strategies are capable of increasing student conceptual understanding. However, the wide range of gain scores seen for both lower and higher interactivity classes suggests that the use of interactive learning strategies is not sufficient by itself to achieve high student gain. © 2009 American Association of Physics Teachers.
- Offerdahl, E. G., Morrow, C. A., Prather, E. E., & Slater, T. F. (2005). Journey across the disciplines: A foundation for scientific communication in bioastronomy. Astrobiology, 5(5), 651-657.More infoPMID: 16225437;Abstract: As an increasing number of fascinating discoveries within the realm of bioastronomy appear in media headlines, participating scientists continue to pursue ways of insuring the long-term success of the scientific discipline. In an effort to foster cross-disciplinary collaboration, communication, and training for scientists involved in bioastronomy research, a team of scientists and science education professionals have developed a survey to assess (1) the degree to which scientists in bioastronomy define themselves as interdisciplinary scientists, (2) the extent to which scientists identify their needs for professional development opportunities to become more effective interdisciplinary collaborators, and (3) what services and infrastructure the bioastronomy community needs to develop for long-term productive interdisciplinary communication, collaboration, research and training. The results of a survey, distributed at the 2004 Astrobiology Science Conference (held at Moffett Field, CA), serve the bioastronomy science community by providing a sound research baseline that informs decisions and targeted efforts to increase cross-disciplinary communication, gathering information about needed professional development opportunities for scientists, and generating insights for training of the next generation of astrobiologists. Results indicate that members of the community feel that interdisciplinary communication and collaboration can best be supported by (1) increased funding opportunities, (2) scheduled time for collaboration at professional meetings, (3) reduction of concurrent sessions at professional meetings, and (4) creation of professional development opportunities for scientists. © Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
- Prather, E. (2005). Students' beliefs about the role of atoms in radioactive decay and half-life. Journal of Geoscience Education, 53(4), 345-354.More infoAbstract: Contemporary science education research emphasizes the importance of considering students pre-instructional beliefs when designing effective, learner-centered instructional strategies. When scientist teach about dating geological events, most often the concepts of radioactive decay and half-life are presented. However, the research base on student understanding of radiation and radioactivity is currently quite limited. The principal research question used to focus this investigation asked: What are the common difficulties that students experience when trying to learn about radiation and radioactivity? Our research illustrates that students bring to the classroom many inaccurate ideas and reasoning difficulties on the topics of ionizing radiation, radioactivity, and radioactive decay that are well-poised to interfere with students' understanding of how half-life is used to determine geologic time. To uncover the range and frequency of the dominant student beliefs, we performed individual demonstration interviews and administered open-response and multiple-choice conceptual tests to students from a wide-range of science backgrounds. Our results show that students are often unable to differentiate between the ideas of irradiation and contamination, and that many of these students' reasoning difficulties about radioactive decay and half-life stem from their inaccurate mental models regarding the atom.
- Bailey, J. M., Prather, E. E., & Slater, T. F. (2004). Reflecting on the history of astronomy education research to plan for the future. Advances in Space Research, 34(10 SPEC. ISS.), 2136-2144.More infoAbstract: Despite astronomy's widespread inclusion in curricula prior to the 20th century, educational research in astronomy is a relatively new endeavor. To date there are no dedicated paper journals for astronomy education research, although the electronic Astronomy Education Review (http://aer.noao.edu) has recently released its first issue. As the field of astronomy education research grows, many may find it useful to know what has been done so far. The new SABER database represents an ongoing, collaborative attempt for the astronomy education community to collect and summarize the highly dispersed literature on astronomy education research, although it is not yet complete. Starting with and expanding beyond this database, a systematic review and classification of the literature was performed. Some of the research themes that emerged include: student beliefs and misconceptions; collaborative learning; and the Astronomy Diagnostic Test. Key studies in these areas are described and a bibliography is presented. © 2004 COSPAR. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
- Prather, E. E., & Slater, T. F. (2002). An online astrobiology course for teacherst. Astrobiology, 2(2), 215-223.More infoPMID: 12469370;Abstract: A continuing challenge for scientists is to keep K-12 teachers informed about new scientific developments. Over the past few years, this challenge has increased as new research findings have come from the field of astrobiology. In addition to trying to keep abreast of these new discoveries, K-12 teachers must also face the demands of the content and pedagogical goals imposed by state and national science education standards. Furthermore, many teachers lack the scientific content knowledge or training in current teaching methods to create their own activities or to implement appropriately new teaching materials designed to meet the standards. There is a clear need for special courses designed to increase the scientific knowledge of K-12 science teachers. In response to this need, the authors developed a suite of innovative, classroom-ready lessons for grades 5-12 that emphasize an active engagement instructional strategy and focus on the recent discoveries in the field of astrobiology. They further created a graduate-level, Internet-based distance-learning course for teachers to help them become familiar with these astrobiology concepts and to gain firsthand experience with the National Science Education Standards-based instructional strategies. © Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
- Blowers, P., Blowers, P., Burd, G. D., Burd, G. D., Bolger, M. S., Bolger, M. S., Johns, K. A., Johns, K. A., Lazos, L., Lazos, L., Lysecky, R. L., Lysecky, R. L., Milsom, J. A., Milsom, J. A., Novodvorsky, I., Novodvorsky, I., Pollard, J. R., Pollard, J. R., Prather, E. E., , Prather, E. E., et al. (2014). Developing Faculty Cultures for Evidence-Based Teaching Practices in STEM: A Progress Report. Transforming Institution: 21st Century STEM Undergraduate Education Conference. Indianapolis, IN: AAU-STEM.
- Blowers, P., Blowers, P., Burd, G. D., Burd, G. D., Bolger, M. S., Bolger, M. S., Johns, K. A., Johns, K. A., Lazos, L., Lazos, L., Lysecky, R. L., Lysecky, R. L., Milsom, J. A., Milsom, J. A., Novodvorsky, I., Novodvorsky, I., Pollard, J. R., Pollard, J. R., Prather, E. E., , Prather, E. E., et al. (2014, Oct). Developing Faculty Cultures for Evidence-Based Teaching Practices in STEM: A Progress Report. Transforming Institution: 21st Century STEM Undergraduate Education Conference. Indianapolis, IN: AAU-STEM.
- Prather, E. E. (2014, April/Sprin). How Do We Know Students Are Learning What We Think We Are Teaching. Keynote Talk - Western Washington University NSF WIDER Irwin L. Slesnick STEM Education Symposium. Western Washington University, Bellingham WA: NSF Wider Program, WWU.
- Prather, E. E. (2014, August/Summer). An Introduction to Learner-Centered Teaching Practices. College of Science Graduate Student Orientation. University of Arizona: University of Arizona.
- Prather, E. E. (2014, December/Fall). Learner-Centered Teaching in Physics and Astronomy. Uppsala University Physics and Astronomy Department Colloquia. Uppsala University.
- Prather, E. E. (2014, Feb/Spring). Creating Highly Interactive Learning Environment for 10 to 1000 Students. UA Survival Skills and Ethics Graduate Seminar. University of Arizona: UA Survival Skills and Ethics Graduate Seminar.
- Prather, E. E. (2014, Jan/Spring). The Collaboration of Astronomy Teaching Scholars (CATS) – Reporting from the Nation’s Largest College-Level, Astronomy Education Research Initiative. American Astronomical Society (AAS), National Meeting. Washington DC: NASA JPL ExEP CAE.
- Prather, E. E. (2014, July/Summer). Best Practices with Faculty Learning Communities. Association of American Universities – STEM Reform National Meeting. PEW Charitable Trust - Washington DC: Helmsley Foundation and the AAU.
- Prather, E. E. (2014, July/Summer). Illuminating a Blind Spot in STEM Education Research. American Association of Phyisc Teachers (AAPT) National Meeting. University of Minneapolis, Minneapolis, MN: AAPT.
- Prather, E. E. (2014, July/Summer). Interactive Engagement Strategies for ALL Classes. AAPT/AAS/APS Experienced Faculty Workshop. University of Minneapolis, Minneapolis, MN: NSF AAPT/AAS/APS.
- Prather, E. E. (2014, June/Summer). Learner-Centered Teaching in Physics and Astronomy. AAPT/AAS/APS NEW Faculty Workshop. College Park, Maryland: NSF AAPT/AAS/APS.
- Prather, E. E. (2014, March/Spring). Teaching and Learning at Scale - Active Engagement for classrooms of 10 to 1000. AAC&U PKAL Learning Spaces Webinar. Online Webinar: AAC&U PKAL.
- Prather, E. E. (2014, May/Spring). Are You Really Teaching if No One Is Really Learning? - Designing Evidence-Based Instruction in Extreme Classes. STEM Center Colloquium series. University of Minneapolis, Minneapolis, MN.
- Prather, E. E. (2014, November/Fall). Learner Centered Teaching in Physics and Astronomy. AAPT/AAS/APS New Faculty Workshop. University of Minneapolis, Minneapolis, MN: NSF AAPT/AAS/APS.
- Prather, E. E. (2014, September/Fall). CAE as a Model for STEM Reform. AAU/AAPT/NSF Integration of Strategies that Support Undergraduate Education in STEM (ISSUES) Meeting. Arlington, VA: AAU/AAPT/NSF.
- Becker, S., Hurst, D., Barron-Santella, A., Prather, E. E., Mendelsohn, B., & Wallace, C. S. (2014, June/Summer). Shaping and Shifting Worldviews: An Analysis of What Astro 101 Students Learned About the Role of Science in Society. Meeting of the American Astronomical Society. Boston, MA: American Astronomical Society.
- Prather, E. E., Wallace, C. S., Milsom, D., Johns, K., Manne, S., Tomanek, D., Novodvorsky, I., Burd, G. D., Elfring, L., & Talanquer, V. A. (2014, October/Fall). Active Learning Strategies that Promote Group Problem Solving and Increased Student Success in Large Enrollment Science Courses. University of Arizona Education Expo. University of Arizona.
Other Teaching Materials
- Prather, E. E., Brissenden, G., & Loranz, D. (2017. Homework for Introductory Astronomy, A Custom Publishing with the University of Arizona. University of Arizona.
- Prarther, E., Brissenden, G., & Loranz, D. (2016. Homework for Introductory Astronomy, A Custom Publishing with the University of Arizona. University of Arizona.