What Role Does Informal Education Have in Developing Conceptual Understanding?

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The role of informal education in science as well as other fields is a fairly recent area for public study. Although opportunities for informal education have been readily available for many years, it is only recently that educational researchers have become interested in finding out how informal education im- pacts immediate as well as the lifelong learning of children and adults. The National Research Council (NRC) has published two works that give a broad overview of informal science learning opportunities (NRC 2009; Fenichel and Schweingruber 2010). The editors of Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits have identified six “strands” that participants could, and hopefully would, experience in out-of- school environments:

• Strand 1: Experience excitement, interest, and motivation to learn about phenomena in the natural and physical world.

  • Strand 2: Come to generate, under- stand, remember, and use concepts, explanations, arguments, models, and facts related to science.

  • Strand 3: Manipulate, test, explore, predict, question, observe, and make sense of the natural and physical world.

  • Strand 4: Reflect on science as a way of knowing; on processes, concepts, and institutions of science; and on their own process of learning about phenomena.

  • Strand 5: Participate in scientific ac- tivities and learning practices with others, using scientific language and tools.

    Strand 6: Think about themselves as science learners and develop an identity as someone who knows about, uses, and sometimes contributes to science. (NRC 2009, p. 4)

Read more of this excerptexcerpt from Teaching for Conceptual Understanding in Science, by Richard Konicek-Moran and Page Keeley and published in NSTA Reports.