Collaborative Research: Examining Contextual Factors Influencing the Implementation of Projects Designed to Improve Cultural Diversity in Informal Science Education Programming
This project will research factors influencing the implementation of programs designed to increase diverse participation in informal science. The goal is to provide the informal science education field with information and tools that will help them design effective programs that more effectively engage a broad range of diverse audiences. The project has two major components. First, the project will research the implementation of a citizen science project, Celebrate Urban Birds (CUB), in major U.S. cities. Citizen science projects involve public volunteers in gathering scientifically valid data as part of ongoing research. Second, building on results of the research, the project will launch a website and learning community (called a Community of Practice or CoP) supporting informal science educators that are involved in designing and implementing informal science programs with an emphasis on engaging diverse participants. The project will be lead by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (CLO), a leader in designing and researching citizen science projects, in collaboration with the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) and five science center members of ASTC, where the CUB program will be implemented and researched. The objective of the research is to better understand contextual factors and how they impact implementation even when accepted practices are followed. Such research is key not only to revealing accepted practices but also to understanding how projects are implemented in the face of concrete operational, cultural, economic, and demographic variables. The research will use a comparative case study approach, which is designed for studies requiring holistic, in-depth investigation. The development of the website and the CoP will be guided by a Network Improvement Strategy, a research-based approach to designing educational CoPs. The development of the CoP will involve the project stakeholders including the informal science organization practitioners, community organization representatives, CUB staff, ASTC staff, advisors and consultants. This strategy will allow the project team and pilot sites to leverage their diverse experiences and skill sets to improve practice; provide space for researchers and practitioners to work together as partners; and develop a nuanced set of strategies that can be implemented across a variety of organizational contexts.