ing in informal environments. First, the assessments should not be limited to factual recall or other narrow cognitive measures of learning, but should address the range of relevant capabilities (depicted in the six strands) that informal environments are designed to promote. Second, the assessments used should be valid, providing authentic evidence of participants’ learning and competencies. Third, assessments of informal science learning should fit with the experiences that make these environments attractive and engaging; that is, any assessment activities undertaken in informal settings should not undermine the very features that make for effective engagement, such as learner choice, voluntary participation, and pursuit of science-related interests.

Conclusion 14: Learning experiences across informal environments may positively influence children’s science learning in school, their attitudes toward science, and the likelihood that they will consider science-related occupations or engage in lifelong science learning through hobbies and other everyday pursuits.

Although, as discussed in Conclusion 13, the committee has serious reservations about using academic measures to assess learning in informal settings, we did find evidence that these settings may support improvements in student achievement, attainment, and career choices (see, for example, discussion of Strand 2 in Chapter 6). These outcomes reflect a degree of overlap between academic and informal settings. However, informal environments may particularly foster capacities that are unlikely to register traceable effects on conventional academic measures, notably around interest and motivation (Strand 1) and identity (Strand 6).


Conclusion 15: The literature on learning science in informal environments is vast, but the quality of the research is uneven, at least in part due to limited publication outlets (i.e., dedicated journals and special editions) and a lack of incentives to publish for many researchers and evaluators in nonacademic positions.

Although there is a tremendous body of evidence relevant to learning science in informal environments, there is a limited (but growing) number of peer-reviewed outlets for publication devoted to it. While many scholars publish in a variety of peer-reviewed journals in education, psychology, and museum studies, others are not in academic positions and hence receive few rewards for publication. At present, much of the literature that informs the science learning in informal environments has not undergone rigorous, systematic peer review. In fact, the committee observed enormous variety

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