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Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits
particularly interested in documenting behavior change related to conservation and the environment, typically question visitors about their intended behaviors, following up with phone calls or Internet-based interviews.
The effect of science experience on career choice for children is a major Strand 6 outcome, but it is also very difficult to assess because the time frame involved is so long. Logistical difficulties include tracking individuals, securing long-term funding, and the many intervening factors that can alter the research plan (Allen et al., 2007). In most circumstances, it may be more feasible to look at the immediate choices that lead toward a potential science career, such as choice of school courses, after-school activities, reading material, games and hobbies, and the like. Some researchers have capitalized on extant datasets to conduct longitudinal analyses. In looking at career paths of youth first questioned in middle school and then followed into their adult lives, Tai, Liu, Maltese, and Fan (2006) document the importance of career expectations for young adolescents and suggest that early elementary experiences (before eighth grade) may be of importance. This research also supports the idea that the labels or plans people appropriate for themselves may be an important motivator for participation in activities associated with the label. Sachatello-Sawyer et al. (2002) suggest that being labeled a “museum lover” motivates attendance for adult program participants.
PERSPECTIVES, DIRECTIONS,AND CONCLUSIONS
The outcomes discussed in this chapter represent a broad view of the ways in which practitioners and researchers characterize and measure the effects of science learning experiences. The six strands cover a wide range of approaches to studying and understanding individual learning, from those most focused on cognitive and conceptual change to those most focused on shifts in participation and identity. Although there is a diversity of thought in the informal science learning community about what outcomes are most important and what means of measurement are most appropriate, a rough and emerging consensus exists around some core assumptions about the nature of informal science learning outcomes.
Outcomes can include a broad range of behaviors. We have noted many of the key types of individual outcomes investigated. This kind of research could be designed to allow for varied personal learning trajectories and outcomes that are complex and holistic, rather than only those that are narrowly defined.
Outcomes can be unanticipated. Outcomes can be based on the goals and objectives of a program (and therefore closely tied to its design),