Explainers’ development of science-learner identities through participation in a community of practice

Anne E. Richardson (2011)

The urgent environmental issues of today require science-literate adults to engage in business and political decisions to create solutions. Despite the need, few adults have the knowledge and skills of science literacy. This doctoral dissertation is an analytical case study examining the science-learner identity development of Exploratorium Field Trip Explainers. Located in San Francisco, CA, the Exploratorium is a museum of science, art, and human perception dedicated to nurturing curiosity and exploration. Data collected included semi-structured interviews with sixteen former Field Trip Explainers, participant observation of the current Field Trip Explainer Program, and review of relevant documentation. Data analysis employed constant comparative analysis, guided by the communities of practice theoretical framework (Wenger, 1998) and the National Research Council's (2009) Six Strands of Science Learning. Findings of this research indicate that Exploratorium Field Trip Explainers participate in a community of practice made up of a diverse group of people that values curiosity and openness to multiple ways of learning. Many participants entered the Field Trip Explainer Program with an understanding of science learning as a rigid process reserved for a select group of people; through participation in the Field Trip Explainer community of practice, participants developed an understanding of science learning as accessible and a part of everyday life. The findings of this case study have implications for research, theory, and practice in informal adult science learning, access of non-dominant groups to science learning, and adult workplace learning in communities of practice...

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