The contribution of natural history museums to science education
Relatively little is known about how Natural History Museums (NHMs) and schools can complement one another to maximize learning among school-age learners. Nor do we fully understand the long-term benefits to learning and engagement with science that NHMs have. In this Science Learning+ project researchers in UK and US universities will work with practitioners in NHMs and school teachers in the UK and the US to address these questions. The project will (a) undertake a critical review of the published and grey literature to examine the contributions to learning and engagement that NHMs have made; (b) develop improved instruments that are common across schools, NHMs and other out-of-school settings to determine the efficacy of learning experiences; devise protocols to explore the possibility of data obtained from museum evaluations being matched with national databases, thus improving our understanding of the consequences of such experiences; (c) map the areas of science curricula (using the latest version of the science National Curriculum in England and the Common Core Standards in the US) that NHMs might most valuably address; d) through researcher-practitioner collaboration review current pedagogical approaches employed by schools and NHMs, with a view to developing and studying new practice models in Phase 2. The project will devise validated instruments (of the sort that are increasingly used in large-scale social psychology studies) and explore whether data obtained from museum visitors can be matched, both in the UK and in the US, onto external datasets (e.g. the National Pupil Database in the UK; Elementary/Secondary Information System in the US).
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