Science center educators’ reflective practice in developing controversial SSI based school programs

Project leader: Ingrid Eikeland

Project period: august 2013 – august 2017

Participants: INSPIRIA Science Center

This PhD-project is a participatory design-based research study focusing on science center educators’ reflective practice in the context of controversial socio-scientific issues (SSI). There has not been done much research on educators’ reflective practice neither in museums nor in science centers. Further studies have documented that museums and science centers mainly present science in a product-oriented and unproblematic way . It is therefore recommended to move towards wider learning goals in science centers. I want to approach these gaps by investigate how science center educators develop their professional knowledge and practice during design and testing of a new school program that focus on controversial SSI. The overall aim of the study is to investigate how this approach may affect educators’ reflection on science center pedagogy and how this could contribute to the development of how they view learning in science centers. The study will be conducted in close collaboration with science center educators in Norway.

Youth Participation Project

Project leader: Dagny Stuedahl

Project period: 28.08-2013 – 20.06.2014

Participants: INSPIRIA Science Center, Greåker secondary highschool, UtVite

Expand also explores the role of science centers for science engagement by involving youth in a qualitative and participatory study. This sub-project is based on youth participatory action research methods and earlier work focusing on involving youth in museum research (Cammarota & Fine 2008, Stuedahl & Smørdal 2011), and aims to achieve a better understanding of the complexity of youth`s aspirations and engagement in science centers – and the role science centers may take. The project involves students a science class in the upper secondary science program Greåker high school (2013-2014). The school has an established partnership with Inspiria Science Centre, as part of the focus on entrepreneur-based education. In the project the students learned basic research methods from social sciences, and collaborated with the researcher on challenges related to youth engagement deined. By way of their survey the students are gaining insights into youths motivations and interests for science, and define elements of science centre experiences that youth may prefer on their own terms. In this way an outcome of Expand will be to contribute to understanding of science aspirations, but also how science centres can contribute to ongoing discussions on museums role for general youth development and life long education (see e.g. Koke & Dierking 2007, Zipsane 2007).

The CPD module on Learning in exhibitions

Project leader: Merethe Frøyland and Dagny Stuedahl

Project period: 15.09-2013 – 21.08.2015

Participants: Norwegian University of Life Sciences continuing education, Norwegian Science Center Association, science educators from 9 science centers

The CPD module connects to ongoing discussion of the education of science center educators and the need to develop a shared language and shared practice (Tran 2007). While science center educators are involved in professionalization of their profession through associations and networks, sharing guidelines and thematic discussions, there still seems to be a need for initiatives that fill the gaps in educational development. Several initiatives for continuing professional development (CPD) have emerged to build a professional learning community. These initiatives are based on the need for demarcating the knowledge and skills of science center education profession. There exists several studies on what museum educators do, but there is a limited body of literature on how educators do their work (Tran & King 2007). This builds the background for a CPD-course offered by the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. The CPD program has a special focus on methods and analytical frameworks for re-design of exhibition installations based on learning theories.

The CPD-module give 15 ESCT, lasts for a period of 9 months, and includes 4 workshops ending with a project report that will be examined.Each workshop presents a theme and a knowledge component that the science educators integrate into their practical work with an installation in their own centre. During the workshops science center educators are involved in experimental and practical sessions to gain experience with different methods of documentation and observation of interactions in the exhibition. Different methods for studying visitors’ interactions and learning from exhibits and installations are investigated collaboratively and discussed in relation to local contexts . As an outcome the course participant’s work on a practical re-design of an installation in their own science center, by implementing methods, theories and techniques gained from the course .