ISE Professionals Knowledge and Attitudes Regarding Science Identity for Learners in Informal Environments: Results of a National Survey

November 4th, 2009 | RESEARCH

This report presents findings from a national exploratory study on professional knowledge and attitudes surrounding science identity as an applicable theory for understanding experiences in informal science education (ISE) environments. The study was distributed by email to 2,500 names on the Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education (CAISE)‚Äôs mailing list. The survey received an 11% complete response rate with 288 complete responses, and another 181 partial responses, and an average of 15 years experience working in the ISE field for all complete respondents. The results demonstrated that the majority of professionals found the concept intriguing with nearly half the respondents (46%) believing that identity is an important new area of study. Although a few professionals (8%) felt this subject area was not as important as other areas of study and a very small number felt this subject area was a fad (3%), most of the other respondents (40%) felt that they did not know enough about the topic to judge its relevance. When queried on the constructs that define science identity, there was general support for the idea that identity can be explored and developed in an ISE experience. There was little support, however, for constructs related to the dimensions of science identity that predict meaning‚Äźmaking or behavior, or whether ethnic and sexual identity can create barriers to the development of science identity. Examination of the open‚Äźended narrative responses revealed that there is a great deal of confusion between exploration of a science identity, and learning science concepts. We conclude that the exclusion of identity theory from the ISE community‚Äôs discourses on learning have not sufficiently prepared professionals to act on the recommendations of the National Research Council report recommending an important new strand for ISE research. We recommend that further study of science identity development continue, but more importantly, that scholars come to the aid of the ISE community by making efforts to disseminate the principles of identity theory in order to help these professionals grapple with the emerging research in their exhibitions and programs.



Team Members

Institute for Learning Innovation, Contributor
John Fraser, Author, New Knowledge Organization Ltd.
Patricia Ward, Author, Museum‚Ä© of ‚Ä©Science ‚Ä©and ‚Ä©Industry



Audience: Museum | ISE Professionals
Discipline: Social science and psychology
Resource Type: Reference Materials | Report
Environment Type: Public Programs