The contribution of science-rich resources to public science interest

Sunday, October 1, 2017
Resource Type:
Peer-reviewed article | Research
Elementary School Children (6-10) | Middle School Children (11-13) | Youth/Teen (up to 17) | Adults | General Public | Educators/Teachers | Museum/ISE Professionals | Learning Researchers
General STEM
Institute for Learning Innovation, California Science Center, ExploseYourMuseum

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.

Private Foundation
Publication Name: 
Journal of Research in Science Teaching
Page Number: 

Team Members

John H FalkAuthor
David MeierDavid MeierAuthor
David BibasAuthor
Kathleen LivingstonKathleen LivingstonAuthor

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