The roles and goals of educators teaching science in non-formal settings

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Title: The roles and goals of educators teaching science in non-formal settings
Author: Tran, Lynn Uyen
Advisors: Dr. John Penick, Committee Chair
Dr. Susan Butler, Committee Member
Dr. Lundie Spence, Committee Member
Dr. Glenda Carter, Committee Member
Abstract: Recognition of informal institutional settings as educational resources to supplement and compliment school science teaching and learning has increased in the last 25 years. Research examining how people interact with exhibits or the natural environment, and the benefits of preparing classroom teachers to use informal settings to enhance student experiences is extensive. It is the free-choice, non-evaluative, non-threatening, social nature of these settings that may drive people's intrinsic motivation to learn. While many informal settings also provide numerous learning opportunities through educator-led programs like classes, lectures, and demonstrations, literature regarding learning and instruction from the perspective of these non-formal educators and the educational programs they provide remain deficient. Thus this exploratory study investigated three questions pertaining to instruction of science classes offered to visiting school groups: (1) How do educators at informal settings teach science to school groups?; (2) What role do non-formal educators take in K-12 science instruction at informal settings?; (3) What are the observable teaching behaviors of non-formal educators in science classes taught to school groups? In this qualitative investigation, eight non-formal educators from eight informal settings in North Carolina were observed teaching regularly scheduled science classes to visiting school groups. Four types of data (field notes; modified SATIC plus addendum to code student-teacher verbal interactions and student activities; self-perception surveys; and semi-structured, open-ended interviews) were collected, and each was validated against the other three in order to improve credibility of the findings and interpretations. Seven major findings arose from constant comparison of the four data sources: (1) Prompt assessment of learners' prior knowledge is a critical skill for teaching in non-formal settings. (2) Lesson plan repetition was an inherent advantage. (3) Variability in job duties generated opportunities for collaboration among colleagues. (4) Physical participation was used to create lasting memories. (5) Programs and teaching practices were teacher-centered in nature. (6) Classes at informal settings shared characteristics of science labs in formal classrooms. (7) Apprenticeship-style teacher education is the norm for non-formal educators.
Date: 2002-10-29
Degree: MS
Discipline: Science Education

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