We’re back! I hope everyone’s 2018 is off to a great start! An Interesting Perspective has big things planned for the year, and we hope you check back in each week to stay up to date. This week we will discuss informal teaching and learning in science.
Take a look at the picture above. You are probably thinking this is some sort of entertainment show, maybe even a magic show. What if I told you that this was being used as an education tool. Imagine students getting to witness something like this. It is certainly engaging and exciting, and would likely motivate students to learn how it happens.
Why is it that these types of experiences are often ignored in formal education? Why are the stakes always so high and determined by a grade, rather than by knowledge and understanding? In an article titled “Reframing research on informal teaching and learning in science: Comments and commentary at the heart of a new vision for the field” from the Journal of Research in Science Teaching, the importance and incorporation of informal science teaching and learning is discussed.
As you can see in the graphic above, nearly all of the learning an individual accomplishes over the course of a lifetime is through informal learning environments, so students are already accustomed to this type of learning. Why dramatically change that when discussing science?
Reasons to Use Informal Science Education
- Increase science literary development – Informal education often requires communication between peers and educators. Studies have shown that literacy development occurs in students due to the nature of the learning, specifically when using language to connect concepts from multiple disciplines, or across multiple content areas entirely.
- Increase interpersonal skills and communication – Informal education offers students the opportunity to engage in many meaningful collaborations. Within these collaborations, students are able to improve interpersonal and communication skills due to their interactions, as well as allowing each of the students to learn from the other members’ own experiences.
- It provides a new lens for science – This style of science learning allows students to work with one another to trace science literacy development, as well as have an in-depth understanding of a topic in which they are interested.
— HRPA (@HRPA) February 1, 2018
Ways to Implement
- Boundary encounters
- Field Trips
- Outreach Projects
- Boundary objects
- Ideas and activities that are “both plastic enough to adapt to local needs and the constraints of the several parties employing them, yet robust enough to maintain a common identity across settings.”
Don’t be afraid to take students outside of the formal learning environment; rather, embrace the opportunity to take them on a trip to the margins. It might just be more beneficial.
Rahm, J. (2014). Reframing research on informal teaching and learning in science: Comments and commentary at the heart of a new vision for the field. Journal of Research in Science Teaching,51(3), 395-406. doi:10.1002/tea.21141