The contribution of science-rich resources to public science interest

October 1st, 2017 | RESEARCH

This preliminary study examined the effect that five major sources of public science education—schools, science centers, broadcast media, print media, and the Internet—had on adults’ science interest values and cognitive predispositions. Over 3,000 adults were sampled in three U.S. metropolitan areas: Los Angeles, California, Phoenix, Arizona, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. To minimize potential sampling bias, the results were weighted by current U.S. Census data to be comparable to demographics from each of the three jurisdictions. Participants were asked to self-report their current and early adolescent usage of these five science-related resources, the quality of their experiences with each, and their current abilities, values, and cognitive predispositions relative to science. Data showed that overall, a broad cross-section of adults living in these cities engaged in a wide array of science-related activities and that large majorities did so frequently. Nearly two-thirds of all respondents self-reported currently participating in some kind of science-related activity every week and nearly half doing so daily.

Results suggested that having frequent; positive science-related experiences in- and out-of-school, both early and later in life, correlated with having a strong interest in and positive perception of science as an adult. Although a diversity of positive science-related experiences correlated with current adult science interest values and cognitive predispositions, only five factors uniquely and significantly predicted adult science interest, values, and cognitive predispositions in the multivariate models: (a) early adolescent experiences visiting a science center, (b) early adolescent experiences watching science-related television, (c) adult visits to a science center, (d) adults reading books and magazines about science. Discussed are issues of self-selection, quality of experiences, and the complex and synergistic nature of the science learning ecosystem.


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Team Members

John H Falk, Author, Institute for Learning Innovation
Scott Pattison, Author, Institute for Learning Innovation
David Meier, Author, Institute for Learning Innovation
David Bibas, Author, California Science Center
Kathleen Livingston, Author, ExploseYourMuseum


Identifier Type: doi
Identifier: 10.1002/tea.21425

Publication: Journal of Research in Science Teaching
Volume: 55
Page(s): 422-445


Funding Source: Private Foundation

Related URLs

Full Text via EBSCO


Audience: Adults | Educators | Teachers | Elementary School Children (6-10) | General Public | Learning Researchers | Middle School Children (11-13) | Museum | ISE Professionals | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: General STEM
Resource Type: Peer-reviewed article | Research

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This material is supported by National Science Foundation award DRL-2229061, with previous support under DRL-1612739, DRL-1842633, DRL-1212803, and DRL-0638981. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations contained within are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.

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