The role of informal science centers in science education: attitudes, skills, and self-efficacy

The research results indicated a positve efect of the pre-academic science center actvites on scientfc thinking skills. A signifcant improvement in the students' inquiry and graphing skills was found, yet non signifcant diferences were found in argumentaton skill. The students signifcantly improved their ability to ask research questons based on reading a scientfc text, and to describe and analyze research results that were presented graphically. | Journal of Technology and Science Education THE ROLE OF INFORMAL SCIENCE CENTERS IN SCIENCE EDUCATION: ATTITUDES, SKILLS, AND SELF-EFFICACY Irit Sasson Tel-Hai College, Golan Research Insttute Israel iritsa@ Received March 2014 Accepted July 2014 Abstract Informal learning relates to actvites that occur outside the school environment. These learning environments, such as visits to science centers provide valuable motvatonal opportunites for students to learn science. The purpose of this study was to investgate the role of the pre-academic center in science educaton and partcularly to explore its efects on 750 middle-school students' attudes toward science, their scientfc thinking skills and self-efcacy. Pre and post-case based questonnaires were designed to assess the students’ higher order thinking skills – inquiry, graphing, and argumentaton. In additon, a fve-point Likert scale questonnaire was used to assess students' attudes and self-efcacy. The research results indicated a positve efect of the pre-academic science center actvites on scientfc thinking skills. A signifcant improvement in the students' inquiry and graphing skills was found, yet non signifcant diferences were found in argumentaton skill. The students signifcantly improved their ability to ask research questons based on reading a scientfc text, and to describe and analyze research results that were presented graphically. While no signifcant diferences were found between girls and boys in the pre-questonnaire, in the post-questonnaire the girls' scores in inquiry skill were signifcantly higher than boys' scores. Increases in students' positve attudes toward science and self-efcacy were found but the results were not statstcally signifcant. However, the program length was found to be an important variable that afects achievement of educatonal goals. A three-dimensionbased framework is suggested to characterize learning environments: organizatonal, psychological, .

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