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Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits
FIGURE 2-1 Estimated time spent in school and informal learning environments.
NOTE: This diagram shows the relative percentage of their waking hours that peopleacross the life span spend in formal educational environments and other activities. Thecalculations were made on the best available statistics on how much time people atdifferent points across the life span spend in formal instructional environments. Thisdiagram was originally conceived by Reed Stevens and John Bransford to represent therange of learning environments being studied at the Learning in Informal and FormalEnvironments (LIFE) Center. Graphic design, documentation, and calculations wereconducted by Reed Stevens, with key assistance from Anne Stevens (graphic design)and Nathan Parham (calculations).
SOURCE: Stevens (no date).
In this chapter we begin by discussing some general theoretical perspectives of learning and exploring how some prominent frameworks used in research on learning in informal environments build on them. We then describe an ecological model of learning that provides multiple lenses for synthesizing how people learn science across informal environments. Building from the ecological perspective, we define the venues and configurations for learning and science learning strands that frame the remainder of this volume.
INTEGRATING VIEWS OFKNOWLEDGE AND LEARNING
Research on learning science in informal environments reflects the diversity of theoretical perspectives on learning that have guided research. Over a century ago, scientists began to study thinking and learning in a more systematic way, taking early steps toward what are now called the cognitive sciences. During the first few decades of the 20th century, researchers focused on such matters as the nature of general intellectual ability and its distribution in the population. In the 1930s, they started emphasizing such