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Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits Learning Science in Informal Environments People, Places, and Pursuits Committee on Learning Science in Informal Environments Philip Bell, Bruce Lewenstein, Andrew W. Shouse, and Michael A. Feder, Editors Board on Science Education Center for Education Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS Washington, D.C. www.nap.edu
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Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20001 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. This study was supported by Grant No. ESI-0348841 between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations or agencies that provided support for the project. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Learning science in informal environments : people, places, and pursuits / Philip Bell … [et al.], editors ; Committee on Learning Science in Informal Environments, Board on Science Education, Center for Education, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-309-11955-9 (hardcover) — ISBN 978-0-309-11956-6 (pdf) 1. Science—Study and teaching. 2. Learning. I. Bell, Philip, 1966- II. National Research Council (U.S.). Committee on Learning Science in Informal Environments. Q181.L49585 2009 507.1—dc22 2009007899 Additional copies of this report are available from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, N.W., Lockbox 285, Washington, DC 20055; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area); Internet, http://www.nap.edu. Copyright 2009 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America Suggested citation: National Research Council. (2009). Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits. Committee on Learning Science in Informal Environments. Philip Bell, Bruce Lewenstein, Andrew W. Shouse, and Michael A. Feder, Editors. Board on Science Education, Center for Education. Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
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Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Charles M. Vest is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Charles M. Vest are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council. www.national-academies.org
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Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits COMMITTEE ON LEARNING SCIENCE IN INFORMAL ENVIRONMENTS PHILIP BELL (Co-chair), Learning Sciences, College of Education, University of Washington, Seattle BRUCE LEWENSTEIN (Co-chair), Department of Communication, Cornell University SUE ALLEN, Visitor Research and Evaluation, The Exploratorium, San Francisco B. BRADFORD BROWN, Department of Educational Psychology, University of Wisconsin–Madison MAUREEN CALLANAN, Department of Psychology, University of California, Santa Cruz ANGELA C. CRISTINI, School of Theoretical and Applied Science, Ramapo College of New Jersey KIRSTEN ELLENBOGEN, Evaluation and Research in Learning, Science Museum of Minnesota, St. Paul CECILIA GARIBAY, Garibay Group, Chicago LAURA MARTIN, Science Interpretation, Arizona Science Center, Phoenix DALE McCREEDY, Gender and Family Learning Programs, The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia DOUGLAS L. MEDIN, Department of Psychology, Northwestern University VERA MICHALCHIK, SRI International, Menlo Park, California GIL G. NOAM, Program in Education, Afterschool, and Resiliency, Harvard University and McLean Hospital, Boston BRIAN K. SMITH, Information Sciences and Technology and Education, Pennsylvania State University ANDREW W. SHOUSE, Senior Program Officer MICHAEL A. FEDER, Senior Program Officer HEIDI A. SCHWEINGRUBER, Deputy Director, Board on Science Education VICTORIA N. WARD, Senior Program Assistant (until May 2008) KELLY DUNCAN, Program Assistant REBECCA KRONE, Senior Program Assistant
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Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits BOARD ON SCIENCE EDUCATION CARL E. WIEMAN (Chair), Department of Physics, University of Colorado, Boulder, and University of British Columbia PHILIP BELL, Learning Sciences, College of Education, University of Washington, Seattle WILLIAM BONVILLIAN, Washington, DC, Office, Massachusetts Institute of Technology JOHN BRANSFORD, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, University of Washington, Seattle ADAM GAMORAN, Center for Education Research, University of Wisconsin–Madison JANET HUSTLER, Partnership for Student Success in Science, Synopsys, Inc., Mountain View, California FRANK KEIL, Morse College, Yale University BRETT D. MOUDLING, Utah Office of Education, Salt Lake City CARLO PARRAVANO, Merck Institute for Science Education, Merck & Co., Inc., Rahway, New Jersey HELEN R. QUINN, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, Stanford University SUSAN R. SINGER, Department of Biology, Carleton College JAMES P. SPILLANE, Department of Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University WILLIAM B. WOOD, Department of Cellular and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado, Boulder C. JEAN MOON, Director (until October 2007) HEIDI A. SCHWEINGRUBER, Deputy Director ANDREW W. SHOUSE, Senior Program Officer MICHAEL A. FEDER, Senior Program Officer PATRICIA HARVEY, Senior Program Assistant THOMAS E. KELLER, Program Officer VICTORIA N. WARD, Senior Program Assistant (until May 2008) KELLY DUNCAN, Program Assistant REBECCA KRONE, Senior Program Assistant
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Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits Acknowledgments This report would not have been possible without the important contributions of National Research Council (NRC) leadership and staff, and many other organizations. First, we acknowledge the support and sponsorship of the National Science Foundation (NSF). We particularly thank David Ucko, deputy division director of the Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings, whose initial and continuing engagement with the committee supported and encouraged the development of the report. We also acknowledge the contributions of participants in the planning process. In particular, a number of people participated in a planning meeting to define the scope of the study. We thank Alan Friedman, New York Hall of Science for chairing that meeting. We also thank Lynn Dierking and John Falk, Oregon State University; Kathleen McLean, Independent Exhibitions; and Martin Storksdieck, Institute for Learning Innovation, for preparing papers to elicit discussion at the planning meeting. The success of the meeting was largely due to the insights provided by the meeting participants, including Sue Allen, The Exploratorium; Dennis Bartels, TERC; Rick Bonney, Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Kevin Crowley, University of Pittsburgh; Zahava Doering, Smithsonian Institution; Sally Duensing, King’s College London; John Durant, at-Bristol; Kirsten Ellenbogen, Science Museum of Minnesota; Patrice Legro, Koshland Museum of Science; Bruce Lewenstein, Cornell University; Mary Ellen Munley, Visitor Studies Association; Wendy Pollock, Association for Science-Technology Centers; Dennis Schatz, Pacific Science Center; Leona Schauble, Vanderbilt University; Marsha Semmel, Institute of Museum and Library Services; Cary I. Sneider, Boston Museum of Science; Elizabeth Stage, Lawrence Hall of Science, University of California, Berkeley; David Ucko,
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Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits NSF; and Ellen Wahl, Liberty Science Center. Following the planning meeting Julie Johnson, Science Museum of Minnesota, consulted with the project to help assemble the committee. Over the course of the study, members of the committee benefited from discussion and presentations by the many individuals who participated in our four fact-finding meetings. In particular, our initial framing of the domain of science learning in informal environments underwent significant revisions and refinements as a result of the scholarly and thoughtful contributions made by the background paper writers, presenters, and responders. At our first meeting, Lynn Dierking, Oregon State University, gave an overview of the informal learning field in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Shalom Fisch, MediaKidz Research and Consulting, discussed the effects of educational media. Sheila Grinell, Strategic Designs for Cultural Institutions, spoke about the recent evolution of practice in informal science. George Hein, Lesley University and TERC, discussed the need for the field to be both cautious and bold. Jon Miller, Northwestern University, described a framework for understanding the processes through which children and adults learn about science, technology, and other complex subjects. The second meeting included a diverse set of presenters. Maureen Callanan, University of California, Santa Cruz, described the sociocultural and constructivist theories of learning. Kevin Dunbar, University of Toronto, summarized the cognitive and neurocognitive mechanisms of science learning and how they play out in informal environments. Margaret Eisenhart, University of Colorado, Boulder, discussed the aspects of informal learning environments that afford opportunities to underserved or underrepresented populations. Leslie Goodyear, Education Development Center, Inc., and Vera Michalchik, SRI International, presented methods and findings from evaluations of informal programs that serve underrepresented or underserved populations. Kris Gutiérrez, University of California, Los Angeles, gave specific examples of how informal learning environments serve diverse populations. Karen Knutson, UPCLOSE, University of Pittsburgh, discussed views of learning science in informal environments inherent in programs and evaluations. K. Ann Renninger, Swarthmore College, gave an overview of theories of motivation and how they map to learning in informal environments. At the third meeting, the committee heard evidence about the science learning that takes place in various informal venues and pressing policy issues in the field. Bronwyn Bevan, The Exploratorium; Christine Klein, an independent consultant; and Elizabeth Reisner, Policy Study Associates, participated in a panel discussion of current policy issues in informal learning environments. Deborah Perry, Selinda Research Associates, Inc., described how exhibits and designed spaces are constructed for learning science. Saul Rockman, Rockman Et Al, discussed the evidence of science learning from traditional forms of media. Bonnie Sachatello-Sawyer, Hopa Mountain, Inc., gave an overview of the design and impact of adult science learning programs.
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Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits At the fourth meeting, the public session was concerned primarily with the status of the papers prepared to support the committee’s work and the organizational structure being implemented in NSF as it relates to this project. David Ucko provided an overview of the new organizational structure and focus of the education program offices at NSF. At our final meeting, the committee discussed the planned practitioner volume on science learning in informal environments that the Board on Science Education is developing as a resource for practitioners based on the evidence, findings, and conclusions of this consensus study. Two of the current study members are also members of the oversight group for the practitioner volume: Sue Allen, The Exploratorium, and Gil Noam, Harvard University. The five other members of the practitioner volume oversight group also attended our final meeting: Myles Gordon, consultant; Leslie Rupert Herrenkohl, University of Washington; Natalie Rusk, MIT Media Lab; Bonnie Sachatello-Sawyer; and Dennis Schatz, Pacific Science Center. We are grateful to each member of the group for providing us with excellent feedback. The practitioner volume, sponsored by NSF’s Division of Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings, the Institute for Museum and Library Services, and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, will be released following publication of this report. We also acknowledge the efforts of the eight authors who prepared background papers. Arthur Bangert and Michael Brody, Montana State University, along with Justin Dillon, King’s College London, were asked to review the literature on assessment outcomes. Laura Carstensen and Casey Lindberg, Stanford University, along with Edwin Carstensen, University of Rochester, were asked to synthesize the literature on older adult learning in informal environments. Shirley Brice Heath, Stanford University and Brown University, was asked to describe how issues of diversity influence individual conceptions of science. The Institute for Learning Innovation was asked to review the evidence in evaluation studies of the impact of designed spaces. Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy, University of Utah, and Angelina E. Castagno, Northern Arizona University, were asked to review and synthesize the literature on native science. K. Ann Renninger, Swarthmore College, was asked to review research on interest and motivation in the context of learning science in informal environments. Rockman Et Al was asked to provide a review of the evidence of the impact of traditional media (e.g., television, radio, print). Sarah Schwartz, Harvard University, was asked to provide a synopsis of the scope and institutional investments in after-school and out-of-school-time programs. Many individuals at the NRC assisted the committee. The study would not have been possible without the efforts and guidance of Jean Moon, Patricia Morison, and Heidi Schweingruber. Each was an active participant in the deliberations of the committee, helping us to focus on our key messages and conclusions. In addition, they made profound contributions to the development of the report through periodic leadership meetings with the
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Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits committee co-chairs and the NRC staff. We are grateful to Victoria Ward and Kemi Yai, who arranged logistics for our meetings and facilitated the proceedings of the meetings themselves. We would also like to thank Rebecca Krone for assisting with the construction of the reference lists in each chapter of the report. The synthesis of the diverse literatures reviewed in this report would not have been possible without the efforts of Matthew Von Hendy, who conducted multiple literature searches and acquired copies of studies essential to our review. This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the Report Review Committee of the NRC. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report: David Anderson, Department of Curriculum Studies, University of British Columbia; Bronwyn Bevan, Informal Learning and Schools, The Exploratorium, San Francisco, CA; Ilan Chabay, Public Learning and Understanding of Science (PLUS), University of Gothenburg, Sweden; Lynn D. Dierking, Free-Choice Learning and Department of Science and Mathematics Education, Oregon State University; Shalom Fisch, Office of the President, MediaKidz Research and Consulting, Teaneck, NJ; Shirley Brice Heath, Anthropology and Education, Stanford University and Department of Education, Brown University; Bonnie L. Kaiser, Office of the Dean of Graduate and Postgraduate Studies, The Rockefeller University; Frank C. Keil, Department of Psychology, Yale University; Leona Schauble, Peabody College, Vanderbilt University; and Cary I. Sneider, Boston Museum of Science, Portland, OR. Although the reviewers listed above provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions and recommendations nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Adam Gamoran, Center for Education Research, University of Wisconsin–Madison, and May Berenbaum, Department of Entomology, University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign. Appointed by the NRC, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report, however, rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution. Philip Bell and Bruce Lewenstein, Co-chairs Andrew W. Shouse, Senior Program Officer Michael A. Feder, Senior Program Officer
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Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits Contents Summary 1 PART I Learning Science in Informal Environments 9 1 Introduction, 11 2 Theoretical Perspectives, 27 3 Assessment, 54 PART II Venues and Configurations 91 4 Everyday Settings and Family Activities, 93 5 Science Learning in Designed Settings, 127 6 Programs for Young and Old, 173 PART III Cross-Cutting Features 207 7 Diversity and Equity, 209 8 Media, 248 PART IV Conclusions, Recommendations, and Future Directions 289 9 Conclusions and Recommendations, 291
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Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits Appendixes A Biographical Sketches of Committee Members and Staff 315 B Some Technical Considerations in Assessment 322 Index 327