Relating Research to Practice has identified a limited set of Hot Topics representing pressing issues facing the ISE field. Download synthesis papers or browse research briefs related to these topics.





All research briefs tagged to Teaching and Learning in Informal Settings
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Hidi, S., & Renninger, K. A. (2006). The four-phase model of interest development. Educational Psychologist, 41(2), 111–127.

A growing body of research explores the ways that science learning experiences can develop people’s interest in science. In this article, the researchers provide a framework for conceptualizing interest in four phases: triggered situational interest; maintained situational interest; emerging individual interest; and well-developed individual interest. They claim that interest is often conceptualized as a characteristic that a person either has or doesn’t have and that educators could benefit from thinking more about how to stimulate interest. This paper has a review of the literature on interest, as well as an examination of alternative models of interest.


You for Youth (2010). Right time, right place: Building an online learning community for afterschool practitioners. Afterschool Matters 10, 8–14.

You for Youth (www.Y4Y.ed.gov) is a learning community and website started in 2008 for the grantees of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), a U.S. Department of Education program that began in 1998 to support out-of-school time programs. The Y4Y project team describes how this project started as a response to the need for low-cost professional development in a wide range of skills, including conflict management, student engagement, and building relationships with the community. Inputs from practitioners, policymakers, evaluators, and other stakeholders were used in this project.


Bohnert, A., Fredricks, J., and Randall, E. (2010). Capturing unique dimensions of youth organized activity involvement: Theoretical and methodological considerations. Review of Educational Research, 80(4), 576–610.

This study reviews the literature regarding current approaches to measuring participation in organized out-of-school-time (OST) activity settings and their effects on learners. The paper examines learners’ participation in terms of the dimensions of breadth, intensity, duration, and engagement, discussing the theoretical foundations and methodological approaches for each. The researchers note the dialectical nature of each of these dimensions. For example, participation is likely to become more intense (frequent and lengthy) as it endures over time, and as it endures over time it is more likely to intensify. This study provides a comprehensive overview of relevant measurement issues and approaches.


Morag, O., & Tal, T. (2012). Assessing learning in the outdoors with the Field Trip in Natural Environments (FiNE) framework. International Journal of Science Education, 34(5), 745–777.

Despite increasing interest in the potential of outdoor learning experiences, limited research has focused on identifying “good” outdoor education practice. In this paper, the authors propose a theoretically based practical framework for assessing field trips in nature parks and other outdoor settings. The framework focuses on four aspects of field trips: preparation, pedagogy, activity, and outcomes.


Fallik, O., Rosenfeld, S., & Eylon, B-S. (2013). School and out-of-school science: A model for bridging the gap. Studies in Science Education, 49(1), 69–91. doi:10.1080/03057267.2013.822166

This paper describes a model developed by education researchers seeking to bridge the gap between formal and informal learning contexts. The model matches organisational, cognitive, affective, and social-environmental aspects of learning with four key design principles to create 16 practical steps to help formal and informal educators communicate and cooperate more effectively.


Gutwill, J. P., & Allen, S. (2012). Deepening students’ scientific inquiry skills during a science museum field trip. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 21(1), 130–181. doi:10.1080/10508406.2011.555938

This article describes how two inquiry games promoted student science skills in a museum setting while minimizing demands on teachers, fostering collaboration, and incorporating chaperones. Students who played these games engaged in more scientific inquiry behaviors than did students in control groups.


Morehouse, H. (2009). Making the most of the middle: A strategic model for middle school afterschool programs. Afterschool Matters, 8, 1–10.

This paper summarizes key design elements for programs for middle-school-aged children, addressing issues of relationships, relevance, reinforcement, real-life projects, and rigor. The authors argue that these five components take into account the intellectual and emotional developmental needs of this age range.


Clegg, T., & Kolodner, J. (2013). Scientizing and cooking: Helping middle-school learners develop scientific dispositions. Science Education, 98(1), 36–63. doi:10.1002/sce.21083

Participants in Kitchen Science Investigators, an afterschool program for middle school students, learn science through cooking, baking, and experimenting with recipes. In-depth case studies analyzed how and why girls begin to scientize, or see their worlds through a scientific lens, and how the program structure supported this shift.


Douglas, J. A., & Katz, C. (2009). It’s all happening at the zoo: Children’s environmental learning after school. Afterschool Matters, 8, 36–45.

The authors of this article advocate for broad opportunities for young children to engage with the natural environment. In one out-of-school time (OST) program, called Animal Rescuers, children aged 10–12 participated in zoo visits, environmental education activities, and the creation of an online space. This project can give ISE educators insight into how zoos might connect children’s development with issues such as animal and environmental justice.


Tsybulskaya, D., & Camhi, J. (2009). Accessing and incorporating visitors' entrance narratives in guided museum tours. Curator: The Museum Journal, 51(1), 81–100.

ISE educators who provide guided tours at museums and similar institutions will be interested in this paper as it addresses how informal educators can assess a visitor's "entrance narrative," or collection of experiences, memories, and knowledge related to the subject matter of the museum, and respond to it in ways that enhance and increase visitors engagement with the subject matter during the tour. Visitors that experienced the entrance narrative mapping technique described here believed it helped them more deeply engage in the subject matter of the tour.




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