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Peer Review

Learning Science in Informal Environments: People Places and Pursuits

by Andrew W. Shouse , Bruce Lewenstein , Michael A. Feder , Phillip Bell


Overall Numeric Rating:

4 stars
Content Quality: 4.5 stars
Effectiveness: 4 stars
Ease of Use: 3.75 stars
Reviewed: Mar 21, 2010 by Teacher Education
Overview: This report is a review of the literature on science learning in informal environments, written by a committee of the National Research Council, a division of the National Academy which was established by an Act of Congress under President Abraham Lincoln and has functioned as an independent organization since 1863 to provide independent, objective, and non-partisan recommendations based on high standards of evidence whenever called upon to do so by any department of the U.S. government The report is useful to parents, faculty, community institutions, and science educators in both formal and informal environments. Learning Science in Informal Environments is an e-textbook, available for free if read from the web page or for a fee if downloaded as a PDF file or by individual chapters. The book focuses on how people, both as children and adults, learn about science outside of formal classroom or laboratory environments.
Type of Material: E-book
Recommended Uses: This textbook is best used by a teacher-researcher seeking an overview of how everyday environments can be used to teach essential principles of science. The book is a general approach to application with theoretical and research support throughout. It would most likely not be a strong choice for beginning and student teachers seeking more specific direction on how to develop specific learning activities outside the classroom. It would be useful in graduate courses on educational research.
Technical Requirements: Internet browser and Adobe Reader
Identify Major Learning Goals: Identify environments beyond the classroom where both children and adults can learn about various aspects of science. To discover how to evaluate quality of informal environments.
Target Student Population: Established science teachers in K-12 or university settings seeking authentic ways to teach and assess learning of scientific principles.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: A background in science and experience in teaching science.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4.5 stars
Strengths: The e-book provides valid concepts and provides strong support foundation for discussions of different aspects of science learning. It would be an excellent source for those seeking theoretical and research base for science curriculum decision-making and program development.
Concerns: The report is a secondary source and students who are learning how to answer research questions should also be encouraged to track down and read the original primary source. This is not a book for beginning teachers seeking explicit direction and guidance in setting up specific learning activities including exploration and field trips.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: This book could be effective tool for science curriculum developers and program decision-makers. Experienced teachers might find inspiration and justification for moving learning activities beyond the classroom.
Concerns: This book would most likely not be helpful for pre-service teachers beginning to develop learning activities and assessment plans for science education or for new science teachers looking to expand their teaching options.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 3.75 stars
Strengths: The searchable online format and the option to purchase pdf chapters from this book makes it very easy to use. The e-book makes use of hyperlinking to help the user quickly locate supporting information.
Concerns: The e-book is presented in Times New Roman font and is standard textbook paragraph format. The size of the font tends to cause eye strain after many paragraphs and pages of unbroken texts.

Other Issues and Comments: There is only a small community of academics who report on learning science in informal environments. This report will potentially engage others in finding out more about informal learning - and how to make informal science learning available to a broader demographic representation. The book is not suitable for elementary, middle or high school lerners, nor for undergraduate general education courses.

Creative Commons:
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States