Adult education beyond K-12 and postsecondary levels is very important as this citizenry group is often the policy and decision makers in local communities, as well as for state and federal issues that impact the Nation. Moreover, they are responsible for advising their progeny on a myriad of choices. This project will plan, execute, and promote four annual public lecture events, working with a professional educational evaluation expert to develop an appropriate assessment tool for adult learners in the structured informal learning environment of a science café. These planned events will be used to test and refine an assessment tool for making this work widely available to the community of informal science practitioners and researchers. Further, this project is a pilot for epitomizing the use of science cafés to address the learning needs of unique citizens of Richmond, Virginia. The project is committed to including under-represented citizens including Veterans with disabilities. The evaluation and research efforts will validate the education mechanisms so science cafés can be more effective in the future. As a part of its overall strategy to enhance learning in informal environments, the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program funds research and innovative resources for use in a variety of settings.
This project is a collaboration that includes Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), Rockman et al (an evaluation firm), Science Pub RVA (Science Pub RVA is a long-running and award-nominated Richmond, VA science café), Carver Community Partnership, East District Family Resource Center, VCU Partnership for People with Disabilities, VCU Department of Rehabilitation Counseling, VCU Medical Center, and a variety of other VCU departments. The investigators will conduct a series of science cafés to determine motivation, interests, and best practices for educating the diverse citizens of Richmond, Virginia. The objective of the research is to rigorously analyze the characteristics of participants and cohesively determine the best practices for the effective learning for each person. Further, rigorous evaluation will determine validity of the best and most effective learning practices enabling the project to derive an adaptable model. The investigators' hypothesis is that the participant's knowledge base is derived from the traditional learning which occurred in the K-12 classroom. Thus, in this work, the investigators hope to add to the participant's knowledge base with STS (Science, Technology, and Society) content and enhance the depth and breadth of knowledge and knowledge acquisition. The research scope will embrace an assessment that is based on the three vertices of a triangle composed of cognition, observation, and interpretation, all of which converge on the nature of science, the relevance of science to everyday life, and decision-making behaviors.
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