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Title: Factors affecting engagement with informal science learning in Thailand : a regional analysis
Author: Triyarat, Wilasinee
Awarding Body: University of the West of England
Current Institution: University of the West of England, Bristol
Date of Award: 2017
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There is currently minimal understanding as to how informal science learning affects young people’s scientific performance, attitudes and experiences at a regional level in Thailand. This thesis is the first to investigate this topic by examining the factors affecting engagement in science learning in regional informal settings. It focuses on ‘underserved’ students from remote schools with poor access to science learning in informal settings and educational support. This research aims to examine the impact of the activities offered by the Science Caravan, a travelling informal science learning activity, on young people in four regions of Thailand and to explore their informal science learning experiences, through five research questions; (1) What settings or resources are available to young people for informal science learning at the regional level?; (2) What are the main factors affecting the experiences of Thai young people in informal science learning?; (3) How do informal science learning activities meet the needs of different learners?; (4) What learning and other outcomes do young people obtain from participating in regional informal science activities?; and (5) How can this learning be applied to other informal science communication projects at the regional level? The research draws on a number of key theoretical models, including cognitive and social constructivism, which is used to examine how participants obtained and constructed their knowledge via engagement with informal science activities (Berkeley Graduate Division, 2017; Van Der Veer, 2007). Falk and Dierking’s (2000) contextual learning model is utilised to investigate personal, physical and social factors affecting the informal science learning experiences of young people. Finally, the Generic Learning Outcomes (GLOs) are used to examine the outcomes of learning achieved from engagement with informal science activities comprised within the Science Caravan (Art Council England, 2017). Mixed methods were used in this research, which employed triangulation to achieve convergence of results from two different methods (Greene, Caracelli, and Graham, 1989; Bryman, 2006 cited by Creswell and Plano Clark, 2011). Pre and post engagement questionnaires were designed to collect quantitative data from 1,400 participants across four different regions (350 participants for each region). Semi-structured interviews were employed for in-depth exploration of the experiences of 40 young people (10 participants for each region), 20 teachers (five teachers for each regions) and 22 National Science Museum, Thailand staff (two directors and 20 science communicators). The Wilcoxon signed-rank test was used to identify the changes in attitudes towards science and scientific knowledge from pre- and post-caravan responses taken from the same individual. The Kruskal-Wallis test was used to investigate independent data comprising more than two independent groups, and the Mann-Whitney U test when two independent variables were being explored (Field, 2009). For qualitative data analysis, inductive thematic analysis (TA) was used to capture any themes within the interview results (Braun and Clarke, 2013). This research identifies a number of key settings and resources which are available to young people regionally, including the public library, the school library, internet resources, as well as local national parks, zoos, science museums and discovery centres. The location of the informal learning setting, its accessibility and usefulness are significant factors that influence in the uptake of informal learning by local young people. Beyond these resources, factors effecting young peoples’ engagement with informal science learning include schools, teachers, family, friends, the government and other organisations (e.g. local university and local community institutes), with schools and teachers being the most significant factors in promoting informal science learning for young people based in different regions of Thailand. The results suggest that young people learn from informal science activities both as individual learners and via social interaction. The results show that participants obtained and constructed their scientific knowledge and understanding by watching and observing activities, performing experiments, repeating activities and using experiences to solve science problems. Additionally, they also observed, discussed and shared information with others. Over 50% of participants has post-test knowledge scores which were higher than their pre-test scores, with participants in the Northeast showing the greatest improvement in terms of their post-test scores. There were minimal differences by region, age and gender in terms of which types of science activities were most popular with participants. The results also present evidence of changing attitudes towards science and technology, amongst young people following engagement with the informal science activities, including a growing awareness of the relevance of science and technology to life, as well as the complexity of science and its role within society. In examining the learning outcomes from engaging, most participants showed high levels of agreement that the learning outcomes had been met, wanted to be involved in the activities and were following instructions. Over 80% of all of participants indicated attaining new scientific knowledge, promoting development of social skills, increasing self-confidence in presenting ideas in front of others, enjoying science activities, using knowledge from the science caravan to support learning in school, and sharing information to encourage science awareness to others after engagement with the Science Caravan. Older participants aged 13-15 and females were more likely to want to be involved in science activities, to read instructions, and to anticipate using their learning at school. Additionally, local teachers obtained new scientific knowledge and gained new ideas for teaching science. Finally, three significant factors were identified in response to the five research questions; contexts of informal learning, knowledge construction and learning outcome. This research proposes a model based on these three contexts which can be used to investigate other contexts, other informal learning settings and different participants to expand knowledge and understanding in this area. This study of contextual learning, knowledge construction processes and outcomes from engagement with the Science Caravan can lead to further development of the Science Caravan, and this knowledge can also be applied to investigate other regional informal learning projects that may be occurring internationally.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available