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Science Learning Experiences in Citizen Inquiry Communities

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Rebecca Ferguson
15 May 2017

Maria Aristeidou, Eileen Scanlon and Mike Sharples

This study has investigated how to support science learning experiences within citizen science participation communities. The organisation of citizen science projects shows that scientific goals in citizen science projects precede the learning goals and thus, learning happens as a side-effect of the training toward the completion of the project targets.

Citizen inquiry communities originated from the idea of having citizens act as scientists. To address the opportunity to provide more explicit educational benefits, citizen inquiry communities combine citizen science with inquiry-led learning. Citizens participating in these communities are supported to create and facilitate personally meaningful investigations in collaboration with scientists. Moreover, the online environment is developed to enable collaborative inquiry learning.

Two citizen inquiry communities have been developed: ‘Inquiring Rock Hunters’ and ‘Weather-it’. Members of these communities were allowed and supported to create and facilitate investigations (on rocks and weather, respectively) in collaboration with experts and based on their experience of everyday-life science. The following science learning aspects were investigated: type of learning taking place within the community, inquiry behaviour and patterns, scientific vocabulary and self-reported knowledge.

The analysis of the investigations focused on different levels of learning (e.g. content knowledge, methods, skills). Content analysis looked at evidence of inquiry and vocabulary progress. Furthermore, thematic analysis was used for the survey responses around self-reported knowledge.

Reflection on the key findings led to design recommendations that aim to facilitate the understanding of inquiry activities as part of a complete scientific process; balance the enjoyable parts of the projects with gains in scientific literacy; improve transferrable skills; and involve experts in conveying quality science topic culture and learning.

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