Research Topic

Learning Science in Out-of-School Settings

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About this Research Topic

Science learning outside of school or university has the potential to move beyond traditional science content and curriculum and extend into life-long learning. It can incorporate best education practices such as learner-centred approaches and problem-based learning, and can enhance critical thinking, social ...

Science learning outside of school or university has the potential to move beyond traditional science content and curriculum and extend into life-long learning. It can incorporate best education practices such as learner-centred approaches and problem-based learning, and can enhance critical thinking, social learning and other 21st century skills. Science learning should involve people from diverse backgrounds, with socio-economic status, community, cultural context, abilities, and age being factors that can influence identity and engagement with science. Science learning takes place in a range of settings, including museums, science centres, zoos, aquariums, and natural environments. It can be self-directed or facilitated. There is increasing availability of citizen science and other participatory programmes. There is much potential for science learning and never has there been a greater need.

Out-of-school science education and life-long learning can provide transformative and satisfying experiences. This Research Topic seeks to document how programs are developed, who benefits, what benefits accrue and how those benefits are measured. If different age, socioeconomic status, abilities, and ethnicities are related to differences in attitudes and motivations, how can out-of-school science programmes best serve those who are currently under-served? We are looking for theoretical development of science engagement, robust measures of effectiveness of out-of-school science education or life-long learning programmes and other research findings that can help move this field of study forward. This article collection should inform strategies to improve science learning opportunities in out-of-school settings for a wide range of people, especially underserved audiences. How can equity of access be improved? What are the self-perceived identities of participants in science programmes and how do they change (if they do) through their participation? Are older adults a neglected audience? What opportunities exist for life-long learning and adult education? How can they be better explored and delivered?

We are particularly looking for research approaches, theoretical descriptions of programmes or findings that are out of the ordinary in some way. All methodological approaches, including qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods, and participatory action research will be considered. Description of robust, theoretically grounded methods for research about impact and effectiveness or long-term impacts of participation in out-of-school science activities, especially longitudinal studies would be particularly valuable.

Contributions that would be welcome may include:

• Applications of theoretical frameworks for science learning in informal, out-of-school setting;
• Location-based learning;
• Considerations of motivations of life-long learners and the value of science engagement for older participants who represent an under-studied demographic;
• Studies aiming to increase participation of an under-served group;
• Programmes that value and incorporate different sources of knowledge;
• Partnerships between formal and informal educators and communities; and
• Innovative and robust methods that have been used to study and assess science learning in out-of-school settings.


Keywords: informal education, science communication, science outreach, science engagement, participatory science


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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