Online reading assignment question: opinions on Pluto

Astronomy 210 Online reading assignments 14-16, spring semester 2012
Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, CA

Students have a weekly online reading assignment (hosted by SurveyMonkey.com), where they answer questions based on reading their textbook, material covered in previous lectures, opinion questions, and/or asking (anonymous) questions or making (anonymous) comments. Full credit is given for completing the online reading assignment before next week's lecture, regardless if whether their answers are correct/incorrect. Selected results/questions/comments are addressed by the instructor at the start of the following lecture.

(The following question was asked subsequent to, and then again following the lecture discussing the International Astronomical Union classification scheme of moons/satellites, solar system debris, dwarf planets, and planets, which included a group in-class activity.)

I believe Pluto should be a planet. (Graded for completion.)
(SD) Strongly disagree.
(D) Disagree.
(N) Neutral.
(A) Agree.
(SA) Strongly agree.

Student responses (pre-instruction responses, N = 46)
Sections 30674, 30676
(SD) : 4 students
(D) : 7 students
(N) : 18 students
(A) : 10 students
(SA) : 7 students

Student responses (post-instruction responses N = 51)
Sections 30674, 30676
(SD) : 7 students
(D) : 21 students
(N) : 14 students
(A) : 5 students
(SA) : 5 students

Of the 46 students who had answered the pre-instruction question, and the 51 students who had answered the post-instruction question, 35 students had answered both the pre-instruction and post-instruction questions (while 11 students answered only the pre-instruction, and 16 students only answered the post-instruction question).

Of the 35 students who answered both the pre-instruction and post-instruction questions, 16 students had no change in their opinion, while 19 students changed their opinion.

Student responses (pre-and post-instruction responders, no change in opinion, N = 16)
Sections 30674, 30676
(SD) : 1 student
(D) : 4 students
(N) : 8 students
(A) : 1 student
(SA) : 2 students

Student responses (pre-and post-instruction responders, change in opinion, N = 19)
Sections 30674, 30676
(SD) : pre: 1 student; post: 3 students
(D) : pre: 2 students; post: 10 students
(N) : pre: 5 students; post: 2 students
(A) : pre: 8 students; post: 3 students
(SA) : pre: 3 students; post: 1 student

A Student's t-test on all 35 students who answered both the pre-and post-instruction questions (16 students with no change in their opinion together with the 19 students that changed their opinion) results in p = 0.026 (t = 2.28, sdev = 1.10, doff = 68), and thus there is a statistically significant difference between pre-and post-instruction responses.

For the 19 students who took both and responded differently to the pre-and post-instruction questions, here were the shifts:

(SD) to (N): 1 student
(D) to (A): 1 student
(D) to (SA): 1 student
(N) to (D): 2 students
(N) to (A): 2 students
(N) to (SA) : 1 student
(A) to (D): 7 students
(A) to (N): 1 student
(SA) to (SD): 2 students
(SA) to (D): 1 student

"Negative shifts" in opinion (e.g., towards disagreement): 13 students
"Positive shifts" in opinion (e.g., towards agreement): 6 students
(Compare with the 16 students with no shifts in opinion.)

It appears that there is a greater shift towards negative opinions towards Pluto being a planet in this small population sample, as the students that changed their mind were apparently affected by a single lecture on the IAU classification scheme, and on the historical (re)definitions of planets and changing numbers of planets.

Students were given the opportunity to explain their pre-instruction opinion, responses are listed below verbatim.

Briefly explain your answer to the previous question (whether Pluto should be a planet). (Graded for completion.)
"pluto shouldnt be a planet because then we would call every comet a planet as well."

"I agree that it should be a planet because it is a very small icy world and it has three moons."

"It would be as if all our childhood teachers had lied to us if it suddenly is not a planet anymore."

"Poor Pluto used to be a planet and got kicked out of the planet club :("

"Poor guy. He was just going on about his normal day and then all of the sudden some planetary definitions committee decides the Pluto is no longer a planet. I'm sick of it!!!!"

"I'm really not sure if it should be a planet, i think maybe yes, because it has been a planet for so long, and it is just suddenly not considered a planet? i don't know."

"Because you can't call something a planet and then change your mind"

"Never really cared much about why or why not it should be considered a planet."

"Pluto has an atmosphere, rocks, and moons and an orbit."

"it was a planet when i was born and hasnt shrunk or changed so it should still be."

"It doesnt follow the same orbit that the other planets do and I think its better as a dawrf because it has other dwarf planets around it."

"because we its still a planet but its size its way to small but its still orbits around our sun too."

"I'm not sure."

"It's been demoted to a 'dwarf planet' still has planet in the name. Be honored Pluto."

"It's in our solar system!! No matter how chilled out the little guy is he's a planet too! On a serious note, there had to be activity on the planet at some point no matter how brief it may have lasted."

"I thought it was always a planet does it not orbit the sun? what is the "classification" of a planet?"

"I don't get why people get so defensive about Pluto being a planet. What does it matter?"

"i don't care"

"It's so small"

"Doesn't meet the criteria for a planet based o it's gravitational pull"

"I don't really know enough about it to really have an opinion about it."

"Sorry, Pluto doesn't pertain to my life"

"It still orbits around the Sun and is round in shape. So even though it isn't the center of an orbit, it should still be a planet."

"If it was a planet before why change its status at all?"

"That's just mean."

"The criteria was decided on by people that know more about this subject than I do."

"Don't know enough about it."

"Who are we to decide what Pluto should or shouldn't be. Just leave him alone. I'm sure we have already severely bruised his ego."

"I'm not really sure why they declared it a planet for sooo long, and then revoked their decision."

"Because that is how I grew up, just like the tomato is a freaking plant!!!"

"Pluto does not deserve any persecution whatsoever."

"I don't really care"

"Not sure why it shouldn't be..trick question?"

"If chihuahuas are considered dogs, then pluto should be considered a planet."

"Doesnt matter to me!"

"It doesnt matter really, it is in existence and that is all that matters."

"I don't know enough about pluto to have a valid opinion about whether pluto should be a planet or not."

"Too small!"

"i liked pluto the dog might as well killed him off"

"9 planets"

"I grew up with Pluto being a planet and now that it is no longer a planet it makes me sad"

"Because i grew up with pluto being a planet and i dont like change"

"Pluto isn't down with our orbit. It keeps veering off our path, and if it doesn't want to follow us then it isn't one of us."

"va a alrededor del sol y tiene una luna."

"just because he is a little guy, doesn't mean he has to be picked on."

"It is way too small"

"Because it has been a planet for so long, why can't it be a planet now?"

"tradition is a good thing. why rock the boat?!"

"meh, it is what it is"

"Because there quite a few objects that are the same size, also known as dwarf planets."

Students were later given the opportunity to explain their post-instruction opinion, responses are listed below verbatim.

Briefly explain your answer to the previous question (whether Pluto should be a planet). (Graded for completion.)
It doesnt clear its orbit."

"Pluto is to small and cold to be considered a planet. There are also around 1000 icy orbits beyond Neptune. Would we consider these planets too?"

"Because it does not clear it's own orbit around the sun."

"So I know that Pluto is technically no longer labeled as a planet due to its very low mass but that's messed up. Pluto will always be a planet to me."

"I never saw the big deal about it being considered a planet or not."

"Pluto is in an astroid belt. therefor shouldnt be considered a planet."

"Pluto doesn't dominate its orbit, therefor it is a dwarf planet, I agree with the astronomers."

"I feel like it shouldn't be a huge issue"

"Cannot clear it's own orbit. Makes it a dwarf planet. Close enough, sorry Pluto."

"Pluto does not dominate its orbit, therefore is a dwarf planet."

"It's mean to exclude poor pluto!"

"i could care less what they decide to do with it. its not like itll affect us"

"Does not really affect me"

"It doesn't hold it's own orbit"

"It does not satisfy a law of the three rules of being a planet"

"it shoulden get any special treatment"

"it doesn't match up with the rest of the categories of being a planet."

"There obviously something about it thats planet like but at the same time it doesn't really meet all the requirements"

"The other dwarf planets would have to be considered planets if Pluto is considered one."

"I answered Disagree because it doesn't meet the planet criteria."

"It does not dominate its orbit."

"The only reason it isn't considered a planet is because it did not clear it's orbit."

"I leave it up to the experts."

"i say this beacuse i feel sorry for it"

"Don't care either way..."

"We shouldn't discriminate. It was mean to call him a planet for years and then take that title away from him."

"Well if it doesn't dominate its orbit then I don't think it's a planet. I'm just going with what I learned, I really don't have that strong of an opinion about it."

"Im not sure what the need for Pluto is"

"I grew up with it as one, just like Tomatoes are a vegetable, I don't really care if the location of the seeds makes it a 'fruit' it is a vegetable and Pluto is a planet!"

"Pluto deserves a second chance. If the United States legal system gives ex-convicts second chances, then Pluto should be given one as well!"

"I dont really have an interest in Pluto being a planet"

"We should show Pluto some sympathy."

"It was believed to be a planet before, but more knowledge of the Pluto changed that."

"it doesnt qualify mayne!!!"

"pluto is awesome!"

"He doesn't satisfy the planetary rules."

"dont cuuuuur"

"Pluto is pretty cute... so I think it should be a planet!"

"Well truthfully it should not be a planet but it was a planet when I was growing up and I miss that"

"After learning about the guidelines for what is considered a planet, I understand why it is no long considered a planet. However, I still wish it was a planet because I don't like change."

"because is is small"


"It is a dwarf planet. Round Yes, orbits sun yes, dominates orbit NO!!! NOT A PLANET!"

"It doesn't satisfy all of the requirements to be a planet"

"idk i gets its pretty small and doesnt dominate its own orbit. you made it sound like a pretty insignificant planet in class :("

"'And even though you can't hear or see them at all...a person's a person, no matter how small.'" Dr. Seuss"

"I don't really care, but it does seem right to keep him there"

"Pluto is a dwarf plante because it does not dominate the sun's orbit"

"Due to the fact that we went over criteria for a planet in class.. i no longer believe pluto should be a planet"

"its traditioooooooon"

"my mom wants Pluto to be a planet. Her happiness is more important than science"

"Pluto seems like it should just be a planet"

"Pluto dos not dominate its orbit around the sun, and this is the third rule when classifying objects in space."

Previous posts:

1 comment:

Patrick M. Len said...

Student's t-Test: Results

The results of an unpaired t-test performed at 15:21 on 1-JUN-2012
t= 2.28
sdev= 1.10
degrees of freedom = 68 The probability of this result, assuming the null hypothesis, is 0.026

Group A: Number of items= 35
1.00 1.00 2.00 2.00 2.00 2.00 2.00 2.00 3.00 3.00 3.00 3.00 3.00 3.00 3.00 3.00 3.00 3.00 3.00 3.00 3.00 4.00 4.00 4.00 4.00 4.00 4.00 4.00 4.00 4.00 5.00 5.00 5.00 5.00 5.00
Mean = 3.26
95% confidence interval for Mean: 2.885 thru 3.629
Standard Deviation = 1.09
Hi = 5.00 Low = 1.00
Median = 3.00
Average Absolute Deviation from Median = 0.829

Group B: Number of items= 35
1.00 1.00 1.00 1.00 2.00 2.00 2.00 2.00 2.00 2.00 2.00 2.00 2.00 2.00 2.00 2.00 2.00 2.00 3.00 3.00 3.00 3.00 3.00 3.00 3.00 3.00 3.00 3.00 4.00 4.00 4.00 4.00 5.00 5.00 5.00
Mean = 2.66
95% confidence interval for Mean: 2.285 thru 3.029
Standard Deviation = 1.11
Hi = 5.00 Low = 1.00
Median = 2.00
Average Absolute Deviation from Median = 0.886

Data Reference: 0CD7