Ruff Family Science: Researching factors that support intergenerational science learning in adult education contexts
As part of its overall strategy to enhance learning in informal environments, the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments. This includes providing multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences, advancing innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments, and developing understandings of deeper learning by participants. This project will develop and test intergenerational science media resources for parents that are participating in adult education programs and their young children. The materials will build on the research-based and successful children's television program, Fetch with Ruff Ruffman. The target audience includes parents enrolled in adult education programs who lack a high school diploma or are in English as a Second Language classes. These resources will support parents' engagement in science activities with their children both in the adult education settings as well as at home. Adult and family educators will receive professional development resources and training to support their integration of the parent/child activities. Project partners include the National Center for Families Learning, Kentucky Educational Television, and Alabama Public Television,
The goals of the Ruff Family Science project are to: (1) investigate adult education settings that feature an intergenerational learning model, in order to learn about the unique characteristics of adults and families who are enrolled in these programs; (2) examine the institutional circumstances and educator practices that support joint parent/child engagement in science; (3) iteratively develop new prototype resources meet the priorities and needs of families and educators involved in intergenerational education settings; and (4) develop the knowledge needed to create a fuller set of materials in the future that will motivate and support diverse, low-income parents to investigate science with their children. The research strategy is comprised of three main components: Phase 1: Needs Assessment: Determine key motivations and behaviors common to adult education students who are also parents; surface obstacles and assets inherent in these parents' current practices; and examine the needs and available resources for supplementing parents' current engagement in family science learning. Phase 2: Prototype Development: Iteratively develop two prototype Activity Sets, along with related educator supports and training materials, designed to promote joint parent-child engagement with English and Spanish-speaking families around physical science concepts. Phase 3: Prototype Field Test: Test how the two refined prototype Activity Sets work in different educational settings (adult education, parent education, and parent and child together time). Explore factors that support or impede effective implementation. Sources of data for the study include observations of adult and parent education classes using an expert interview protocol, focus groups, adult and family educator interviews, and parent surveys.