PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


What are we trying to teach?
A conceptually based approach to science communication training

Ayelet Baram-Tsabari  

The rapid growth in public communication of science and technology has led to a highly diverse and large number of training programs. Each of these programs engages in teaching. Where there is teaching, there are learners. That shift to learning-centered approach is the focus of our project, asking: what are the learning goals of science communication training? As the PCST field matures, we believe it will be useful to identify a comprehensive set of learning goals for future trainings, ones that draw fully from the range of fields that comprise PCST. Learning goals identify what the teacher or trainer is trying to achieve. They provide a framework for deciding what will be counted as success and how evidence of learning will be gathered and analyzed at the individual level (assessment) and the course level (evaluation). We base our work on a set of six strands of learning developed for "learning science in informal environments" (Bell et al. 2009). Our adapted list includes learning outcomes in affective issues, content knowledge, methods, reflection, participation, and identity. We reviewed dozens of research articles describing and reviewing science communication training for scientists. From them we identified both explicit and implicit learning goals. These were classified according to the conceptual framework described above. We identified gaps in the outcomes especially in the areas of affective learning and identity formation. Ideas for evidence of success and items to evaluate them are suggested. We do not expect that any one program would attempt to achieve all the learning goals. But we believe that conceptual coherence can help course designers identify important goals. Creating a common language will increase the ability to compare outcomes across courses and programs, identifying approaches that best fit particular education, training, and communication contexts.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.