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Public Underst Sci. 2012 Oct;21(7):865-74. doi: 10.1177/0963662510393606. Epub 2011 Mar 14.

Mapping the informal science education landscape: An exploratory study.

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Oregon State University, USA.


This study investigated the informal science education (ISE) field to determine whether it currently functions as an effective community of practice. Research questions included: How do professionals describe and self-identify their practice, including what missions, goals and motivating factors influence their professional work? What challenges do they face and how are these resolved? Is participation in ISE activities perceived as core or peripheral to their work? Open-ended interviews were conducted with high-level representatives of 17 different ISE sub-communities; results were analyzed qualitatively. Findings showed this broad assortment of ISE sub-communities as not currently functioning as a cohesive community of practice. Although examples of shared practice and ways of talking were found, evidence of widespread, active relationship-building over time and coalescence around issues of common concern were absent. A current "map" of the ISE community is proposed and thoughts about how this map could alter in the future are suggested.


community of practice; informal science education; popularization of science; public understanding of science; science education


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