CAPER Center for Astronomy & Physics Education Research
Improving Teaching and Learning Through Research

About CAPER Team

CAPER Center for Astronomy & Physics Education Research

The CAPER Team is widely recognized as the world's leading astronomy and Earth & space sciences education research group, pioneering the development and dissemination of strategies, materials, and resources supporting high quality teaching and learning in science.

CAPER Team Structure
The CAPER Team is a virtual collaborative of researchers, research partners, and advisors, who are all interested in the ways in which people interact and engage with the worlds of the Astronomy and the Earth & Space Sciences.  CAPER is global and members are affiliated with a variety of home institutions, including K-12 settings, museums and planetaria, universities, community colleges and observatories.  CAPER provides a community of practice, in which we can find research, teaching and grant collaborators, and a source of critical feedback.

The public face of CAPER currently includes a CAPER Online Virtual Colloquium Series; CAPER Face-to-Face Workshops; a CAPER Research Fellows Program, a collaboration of formally trained science education researchers; CAPER Affiliates, a group of interested parties from a wide variety of backgrounds; and the CAPER Board of Visitors, a group of experienced Astronomy and Earth & Space Science educators who provide CAPER with invaluable insight and guidance.


Stephanie J. Slater, Ph.D., Executive Director
Stephanie Slater is the Executive Director of the CAPER Center for Astronomy & Physics Education Research.  She also holds a joint appointment at Capitol College where she is a Research Professor in the Department of Engineering and a Senior Fellow at the Center for Space Science Education and Public Outreach.  Dr. Slater serves as the intellectual lead for CAPER and oversees its day to day operations.

Dr. Slater is internationally recognized for her scholarly work in understanding how the public engages in learning about science.  Starting as an undergraduate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), she now holds a Master’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Science from Montana State University and a Ph.D. in Teaching, Learning, and Socio-cultural Studies from the University of Arizona.  Dr. Slater has received both Top Star and Gold Star Education awards from NASA and served as Lead for the Diversity Subcommittee of the American Geophysical Union’s National Committee on Education and Outreach.

Stephanie's email is .  You can find Stephanie’s author page at Amazon  and on Twitter at

Timothy F. Slater, Ph.D. Senior Fellow
With colleagues Jeff Adams and Greg Francis, Tim created the CAPER Team in 1997, while a faculty member at Montana State University-Bozeman.  He has been the Director of CAPER since that time, through it's moves to the University of Arizona, the University of Wyoming, and now as the "virtual" CAPER Center for Astronomy & Physics Education Research.   As Senior Fellow, Tim oversees grant collaborations and external communications.

Tim is currently a Professor at the University of Wyoming where he holds the Wyoming Excellence in Higher Education Endowed Chair for Science Education where he conducts research on student conceptual understanding and inquiry-based curriculum development, with a particular emphasis on non-science majors.  Tim is also passionately engaged in work that broadens the STEM pipeline through mentoring and authentic participation in science for those who are traditionally underrepresented in STEM.

Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Wyoming, Dr. Slater was a tenured professor in the Astronomy Department at the University of Arizona where he built the first Ph.D. program in astronomy education research and founded the Center for Astronomy Education.  Tim has been the elected education officer for the American Astronomical Society, an elected member of the Board of Directors for the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the Education Committee of the American Physical Society, the elected College Science Teaching Director for the National Science Teachers Association, served as the elected councilor at large for the Society of College Science Teachers, served on the Editorial Board of the Astronomy Education Review, and has served multiple terms as chairman of the Astronomy Education Committee of the American Association of Physics Teachers.

Tim is married to Stephanie Slater, and together they have been raised by their four children:  Amber, Aaron, Sawyer & Max.  You can find him online at or

Koa Rice, Hawaiian Cultural and Outreach Specialist.  Koa Rice has been working science education for more than 15 years as a leading expert at the intersection between geoscience and Polynesian culture.  You can watch Koa's online videos at and you can contact Koa by email at

Frank Symington, Ph.D., Indigenous Astronomy Education Specialist.  Dr. Symington has a long-standing committment to teaching students on Wyoming's Wind River Reservation about the cultural and scientific heritage held in the wonders of the sky.  Prior to having taught for many years in Wyoming High Schools, he earned a BS from Yale University and a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. Easiest to find on FaceBook, he holds telescope observing StarParty sessions at reservation schools and conducts summer astronomy camps. 

Our current and past cadre of faculty affiliates, known as CAPER Fellows, have distinguished themselves across the research in teaching and learning spectrum.  Applications are accepted in the fall of even numbered years.


Over the years, the CAPER Team has constructed countless resource materials for use in astronomy education settings.  On this page we offer our own resources, either in full, or to the extent that copyrights will allow  beginning with "Mysteries of the Sky Activities for Collaborative Groups" and moving on to "Lecture Tutorials," and including more recent work such as "Engaging in Astronomical Inquiry."  In addition, we provide fantastic resources created by other earth and space science educators.  In cases where we have full permissions, we include the entire work.  In cases where we lack permission, but still feel compelled to direct you to an effective resource, we provide links.  A great starting place is Amazon   

CAPER Team Research

Conducting cognitive research in the teaching and learning of astronomy and the space sciences, CAPER is a virtual collaborative of researchers located across the globe.  The CAPER collaborative consists of a wide variety of individuals including college faculty, K-12 instructors, amateur astronomers, and informal educators. 

Our group is interested in coming to understand the underlying mechanisms that explain how people engage in experiences in astronomy and the space sciences, and how those those experiences are perceived, remembered and processed.

Our current research interests are centered in three areas.  We are currently engaged in exploring the ways in which spatial reasoning impacts the ability to learn in the geosciences.  We are also attempting to discern and categorize the conceptions that individuals bring to learning, and the ways in which those conceptions change over time.  Finally, we are passionately interested in coming to understand the ways in which individuals are enculturated in the sciences, particularly astronomy and the space sciences, whether those individuals are to become scientists or well-informed citizens. 

Spatial thinking is so deeply embedded in the processes associated with engagement in the sciences that it is difficult to disentangle and appreciate its role. We may not even realize its impact, but it is fundamental to many activities in the earth and space sciences, underpinning successful performance and sometimes accounting for spectacular failure.

CAPER Team is attempting to define the impact of spatial thinking in the earth and space sciences.  We are interested in empirically investigating content knowledge and process skills, to determine if they are related to particular spatial abillities.  It is our hope to then develop appropriate teaching materials, that either teach or support the required spatial reasoning skills. 

Additional information related to each of these areas of research can be found under the tabs in the navigation. As you read through the research portion of the site, please consider engaging in this work with us. We welcome interested scientists and educators at all levels of instruction, and at all levels of experience in education research.



We often need partners and collaborators to work closely with us on our research efforts.  Usually, we announce opportunities online through our mailing list.  If you'd like to join us, please send a blank email to:, use one of the forms on the site, or contact us directly at (When you sign up for our group mailing list, don't forget to watch your junk mail spam folder for a confirmation email to which you need to reply.) 

Considerable effort in the astronomy education research over the past several years has focused on developing assessment tools in the form of multiple-choice conceptual diagnostics and content knowledge surveys.  This has been critically important in advancing astronomy as a sub-discipline of physics education research, allowing researchers to establish the initial knowledge state of students as well as to attempt to measure some of the impacts of innovative instructional interventions.  Before now, few of the existing instruments were constructed upon a solid list of clearly articulated and widely agreed upon learning objectives.  Moving beyond the 10-year old Astronomy Diagnostics Test, we have developed and validated a new assessment instrument that is tightly aligned to the consensus learning goals stated by the American Astronomical Society – Chair’s Conference on ASTRO 101, the American Association of the Advancement of Science’s Project 2061 Benchmarks, and the National Research Council’s National Science Education Standards.  Researchers from the CAPER Center for Astronomy & Physics Education Research designed a criterion-referenced assessment tool, called the Test Of Astronomy STandards (TOAST).  Through iterative development, this multiple-choice instrument has a high degree of reliability and validity for instructors and researchers needing information on students’ initial knowledge state at the beginning of a course and can be used, in aggregate, to help measure the impact of course-length duration instructional strategies for undergraduate science survey courses with learning goals tightly aligned to the consensus goals of the astronomy education community.  For more information, contact us.


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'Imiloa Astronomy Center

CAPER is a proud sponsor of the 'Imiloa Astronomy Center 

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