Secondary school students' knowledge and opinions on astrobiology topics and related social issues

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Abstract

Astrobiology is the study of the origin of life on Earth and the distribution of life in the Universe. Its multidisciplinary approach, social and philosophical implications, and appeal within the discipline and beyond make astrobiology a uniquely qualified subject for general science education. In this study, student knowledge and opinions on astrobiology topics were investigated. Eighty-nine students in their last year of compulsory education (age 15) completed a written questionnaire that consisted of 10 open questions on the topic of astrobiology. The results indicate that students have significant difficulties understanding the origin of life on Earth, despite exposure to the topic by way of the assigned textbooks. The students were often unaware of past or present achievements in the search for life within the Solar System and beyond, topics that are far less commonly seen in textbooks. Student questionnaire answers also indicated that students had problems in reasoning and critical thinking when asked for their opinions on issues such as the potential for life beyond Earth, the question of whether UFOs exist, or what our place is in the Universe. Astrobiology might help initiate student awareness as to current thinking on these matters and should be considered for general science education.

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Oreiro, R., & Solbes, J. (2017). Secondary school students’ knowledge and opinions on astrobiology topics and related social issues. Astrobiology, 17(1), 91–99. https://doi.org/10.1089/ast.2015.1445

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