Effectiveness of a science outreach programme in regional communities of Thailand
A visit to informal science learning settings such as science museums and science centres can influence multidimensional aspects of visitor experiences and outcomes including cognition, affect, attitude, interest, motivation and behaviour related to science and learning. While many informal settings aim to provide science learning opportunities for the general public, geographic distance can exclude some social groups, particularly in regional and rural areas. To overcome obstacles of distance and travel expense to museums, science outreach programmes can bring science to target audiences who would not or could not come to visit the museums. Evaluating such programmes can help determine the impact of participation on visitors’ learning experiences. This thesis is a case study examination of the impact of an outreach programme run by the National Science Museum (NSM) of Thailand – the NSM Science Caravan. Science Caravan has been organised as part of equity works to increase access to museums for Thai children, particularly those in rural areas around the country. To measure changes in students’ attitude and motivation towards science learning as a result of participation in Science Caravan, a pre-test/ post-test design was used to analyze the difference before (N = 1,424) and after (N = 1,104) participation in the intervention. Direct observation was conducted as an unobtrusive approach to investigate students’ learning-related behaviours while they engaged with interactive exhibits (N = 589). Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 43 high school students from four provinces to provide further reflection and self-report. The quantitative analysis of changes in students’ attitude and motivation towards science learning was based on psychometric measurements. One advantage of this study is that different aspects of attitude and motivation towards science learning were defined and measured separately with reliable and unidimensional measures. The results of self-report questionnaires showed that participation in Science Caravan activities had a positive impact on all three elements of attitude towards science learning: (1) Affect - Personal feelings; (2) Cognition - Perceived value; and (3) Behavioural intention - Future participation, as well as three dimensions of motivation towards science learning: (1) Interest; (2) Intrinsic motivation; and (3) Self-efficacy. Data analysis involved structural equation modelling - based on the theoretical framework developed in this study - to predict an intention of future participation in science. Results showed that engaging in Science Caravan activities had a more substantial impact on students’ attitudes about science than on their motivation towards learning science. However, both constructs influenced students’ intention of future participation in science. There were no effects of gender or education levels on either the attitude or motivation construct. Observation of students while they engaged with exhibits provided empirical evidence of learning-related behaviours and potential learning-related outcomes. A large majority (80%) of observed students showed overt active engagement that can contribute to affective and cognitive learning. Exhibits which present a combination of counterintuitive phenomenon together with multiple options of manipulation encouraged higher levels of learning-related engagement. This has potential to influence in-depth learning outcomes and would be interesting to address in future studies.
Advisor: Longnecker, Nancy
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Centre for Science Communication
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: informal learning; science outreach programme; attitude towards science learning; motivation towards science learning; interactive exhibit; learning behaviour; informal science learning; travelling science museum
Research Type: Thesis