Family connections to local science issues

how scientists use questions to engage families in personally-relevant learning during science-themed workshops

Lucy R. McClain, Heather Zimmerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

This study investigates how scientist-led educational programs, held in libraries, can make local science issues relevant to families. Given the need for an educated citizenry, it is important to explore if scientists–as learning facilitators–can use educational strategies to engage intergenerational groups. We view family learning from a sociocultural perspective where parent-child interactions and sensemaking practices are the focus of our analysis. We analyzed three water quality-themed workshops held at public libraries consisting of 25 hours of video data. With a focus on 17 participant family groups, we closely examined the influence of questions asked by three different scientists (each leading a workshop) to understand how the structure of these questions supported or did not support the families in sensemaking conversations. Our findings revealed a relationship between the types of questions the scientists asked and families’ talk related to the program content. Specifically, three questioning patterns emerged that either supported or hindered family connecting conversations: (1) family-focused question prompts, (2) scientist-focused question prompts (anti-questions), and (3) closed-ended question prompts. Our analysis illustrates that personally-relevant family learning about science in their community is supported by conversational opportunities for families to make connections between science and their shared experiences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)154-170
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Science Education, Part B: Communication and Public Engagement
Volume9
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 3 2019

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science
learning
Water quality
Lead
conversation
educational program
parents
Group
video
water
interaction
community
experience

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Communication

Cite this

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abstract = "This study investigates how scientist-led educational programs, held in libraries, can make local science issues relevant to families. Given the need for an educated citizenry, it is important to explore if scientists–as learning facilitators–can use educational strategies to engage intergenerational groups. We view family learning from a sociocultural perspective where parent-child interactions and sensemaking practices are the focus of our analysis. We analyzed three water quality-themed workshops held at public libraries consisting of 25 hours of video data. With a focus on 17 participant family groups, we closely examined the influence of questions asked by three different scientists (each leading a workshop) to understand how the structure of these questions supported or did not support the families in sensemaking conversations. Our findings revealed a relationship between the types of questions the scientists asked and families’ talk related to the program content. Specifically, three questioning patterns emerged that either supported or hindered family connecting conversations: (1) family-focused question prompts, (2) scientist-focused question prompts (anti-questions), and (3) closed-ended question prompts. Our analysis illustrates that personally-relevant family learning about science in their community is supported by conversational opportunities for families to make connections between science and their shared experiences.",
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