New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 13

Accepted Abstracts

Advancing Informal MINT Learning: Preparation and Novelty at a Mobile Laboratory

Rebecca Cors, University of Teacher Education, Institute for Teaching Natural Science (Switzerland)

Andreas Mueller, Universite de GeneveFac. des Sciences/Sect. PhysiqueInstitut Universitaire de Formation des Enseignants (IUFE) (Switzerland)

Nicolas Robin, University of Teacher Education St. Gallen (Switzerland)


Over the past 20 years, mobile laboratories and science centers have become an integral part of science education.  Designed to pique the interest of youth in science and technology (S&T) topics and careers, these programs are popular among teachers, parents and pupils.  However, mounting evidence suggests that pupils experience little or no change in their attitude towards S&T through experiences with these out-of-school learning places (OLSePs). 

The mobiLLab high-technology learning laboratory was developed at the University of Teacher Education in St. Gallen.  Through a background investigation, mobiLLab researchers and faculty identified priority factors for investigation.   The focus of the study was to explore how classroom preparation, teacher attitude and pupil novelty affect S&T attributes, which were defined as S&T interest, attitude and self-concept.  A mixed-methods investigation was designed to explore the question, ‘How do differences in pupil novelty space and pre-visit activities explain variations in pupils’ S&T attributes?,’ and the sub-question, ‘To what degree do teachers’ attitudes moderate these variations?’.   Investigators adapted a research framework from Orion and Hofstein’s (1993, 1994) novelty space theory.  The new mobiLLab novelty space triangle framework captures several factors thought to most influence pupils’ mobiLLab experience: tendency to tinker (capability dimension), previous experiences with informal learning programs (setting dimension), and previous related S&T knowledge and attitudes (cognitive dimension).  

A spring 2014 pilot study involved 9 teachers and 208 pupils, who completed pre- and post-visit surveys.  Investigators also observed mobiLLab school visits and conducted teacher interviews.  Through MANCOVA analyses, investigators identified which preparation and novelty factors significantly affected pupil S&T attributes.  Results suggest that gender, grades, classroom preparation and novelty factors, particularly pupils’ tendency to tinker, are strong predictors of pupils’ overall S&T attributes.  Changes in pupils’ S&T attributes from pre- to post-visit surveys could be explained by whether or not pupils tended to tinker and differences in classroom preparation.  Similarly, data from interviews indicate that teachers believe that pupils’ comfort and familiarity with mobiLLab experimental equipment affects their ability to profit from a mobiLLab visit.  Perceived teacher attitude about S&T was not found to have a significant effect on changes in pupils S&T attributes.  A detailed presentation of pilot results will be followed by discussion of the main study design, which will focus on ‘trait’ and ‘state’ novelty factors.  

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