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Theses Doctoral

The Impacts of Informal Science Education on Students’ Science Identity and Understanding of Science Inquiry

Heydari, Roya

This study examines the development of science identity and understanding of science inquiry among a sample of high school and college-aged students of color, a majority of whom were female, during a yearlong informal science research internship. Formal science settings often have structures that form barriers between students and science, by removing these structures, informal science settings transform the science process into a relevant learner-centered experience. Informal science education (ISE) programs have been commonly studied for simple affective outcomes. These programs have been shown to improve interest, confidence, and motivation in science in addition to improving general attitudes toward science. However, the outcomes of ISE programs on deeper affective outcomes such as identity have yet to be thoroughly explored. Additionally, research on the impact these programs have on cognitive growth and science inquiry development is extremely limited. With the importance of ISE programs becoming increasingly recognized, the need to develop a deeper understanding of the program impacts is imperative. Lastly, the impact these programs have on students of color is of keen interest as ISE programs show potential for combatting their persistent underrepresentation in science.

Guided by Carlone and Johnson’s (2007) science identity framework, this study utilized a case-study approach, which included a mixed-methods data collection process. Observations and semi-structured interviews were used in conjunction with an open-response questionnaire and quantitative survey to analyze the interactions within the informal science setting more deeply. Findings showed that participants experienced a positive statistical change in their understanding of science inquiry and science identity. Qualitative analysis of the data revealed two over-arching themes of the research experience: (1) Students’ Self-Development; and (2) The Learning Environment. Lastly, structural implications, such as program duration and same-race mentorship, are discussed as methods for retaining students of color in science.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Science Education
Thesis Advisors
Mensah, Felcia M.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 14, 2020