ChemAttitudes: Using Design-Based Research to Develop and Disseminate Strategies and Materials to Support Chemistry Interest, Relevance, and Self-Efficacy

Saturday, October 1, 2016 to Monday, September 30, 2019
Resource Type:
Project Descriptions
Environment Type: 
Public Programs, Museum and Science Center Programs
Elementary School Children (6-10) | Middle School Children (11-13) | Youth/Teen (up to 17) | Undergraduate/Graduate Students | General Public | Museum/ISE Professionals | Scientists
Access and Inclusion: 
Hispanic/Latinx Communities
Women and Girls
People with Disabilities
English Language Learners
Museum of Science, Boston, National Informal STEM Education Network (NISENet), American Chemical Society

Chemistry is an important and widely relevant field of science. However, when compared with other STEM content areas, chemistry is under-represented in U.S. science museums and other informal educational environments. This project will build, and build knowledge about, innovative approaches to delivering informal science learning activities in chemistry. The project will not only increase public interest and understanding of chemistry but also increase public perception of chemistry's relevance and increase the public's self-efficacy with respect to chemistry. This project outcomes will include a guide for practitioners along with activity materials that will be packaged into a kit, distributed, and replicated for use by informal science educators, chemists, and chemistry students at 250 sites across the U.S. The project team will reach out to organizations that serve diverse audiences and diverse geographic locations, including organizations in rural and inner-city areas. The kits will provide guidance on engaging girls, people with various abilities, Spanish speakers, and other diverse audiences, and include materials in Spanish. Written guides, training videos, and training slides will be included to support training in science communication in general, as well as chemistry in particular. This project is supported by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program funds research and innovative resources for use in a variety of settings, as a part of its overall strategy to enhance learning in informal environments.

This project will take an innovative approach to develop informal educational activities and materials about chemistry. Rather than starting with content goals, the project will start with a theoretical framework drawn from research about affecting attitudes about science related to interest, relevance, and self-efficacy. A design-based research approach (DBR) will be used to apply that framework to the development of hands-on educational activities about chemistry, while also testing and modifying the framework itself. (DBR blends empirical educational research with the theory-driven design of learning environments.) Existing or new educational activities that appear to embody key characteristics defined in the framework will be tested with public audiences for their impact on visitors. Researchers and educators will determine how different characteristics of the educational activities defined in the framework affect the outcomes. The activities will be modified and tested iteratively until the investigators achieve close alignment between framework and impacts.. The project team will continue the design-based research approach both to examine groups of activities in which synergies can have impacts beyond single interactions as well as to examine varied ways of training facilitators who can also significantly affect outcomes. In this way, the project will generate knowledge about how kits of hands-on informal learning activities can stimulate attitudes of interest, relevance, and self-efficacy with respect to the neglected field of chemistry. The project teams will broadly disseminate project outcomes within the educational research, science and informal Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education communities. While this project will focus on chemistry, the strategies it will develop and test through a design-based research process will provide valuable insight into effective approaches for informal STEM education more broadly.

Funding Program: 
Award Number: 
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Team Members

Larry BellPrincipal Investigator
Rae OstmanRae OstmanCo-Principal Investigator
Mary KirchhoffMary KirchhoffCo-Principal Investigator
Elizabeth KollmannCo-Principal Investigator
David SittenfeldDavid SittenfeldCo-Principal Investigator

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