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Research in Science Education

Pros and Cons of Informal Settings

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Kalleasha Collins Kalleasha Collins 950 Points

Using informal settings when teaching science is a method that allows students to make decisions and apply science concepts. The approach is rich in benefits to Middle grades students' conceptual understanding of science concepts. Informal science settings can provide unique opportunities for flexibility, providing students with more ways of potentially engaging in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Utilizing an array of settings for learning such as games, a garden, the school fields, a gym, field trip to the local mountain, is a way to engage students with multiple learning needs simultaneously. Another pro for informal settings is students have a science learning experience in an environment they usually experience outside of a school setting. Such as going to the zoo, a theme park, playing Minecraft, etc.

Making decisions about balancing both individual and collective agency is a challenge when utilizing informal settings for science education. Giving students autonomy about how they engage with a learning space may not necessarily translate into a collective decision in which the group completes a meaningful project (Schouweiler and Heredia,2021). Therefore, facilitators must establish structure with time, space, resources, and pedagogies to provide students with choices when engaging with learning while supporting youth in meeting learning targets (Education Week, 2009). Informal settings when teaching science pros outweigh the cons, however the success depends greatly upon the teachers, preparedness, knowledge, and ability to guide students.  


“Learning Science in Informal Settings.” Education Week, 2 June 2009,

Schouweiler, David and Heredia, Sara C. (2021). Balancing Individual and Collective Agency in Informal STEM Learning Experiences | NSTA.

Kimberly Campbell Kimberly Campbell 170 Points

Informal educational settings for science, such as science museums, nature centers, and science-related community programs, have both advantages and disadvantages. Informal science settings often provide hands-on, interactive experiences that allow visitors to engage directly with scientific concepts and phenomena. This tactile learning can enhance understanding. Science is presented in a real-world context, helping learners see the practical applications of scientific principles. This can make science more relatable and relevant. Informal science education encourages inquiry and exploration. Visitors are encouraged to ask questions, investigate, and think critically, promoting a deeper understanding of science. Informal settings cater to various learning styles and preferences. Visitors can choose activities that match their interests and how they learn best. Informal science settings often highlight potential career paths in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), inspiring future scientists and engineers. Informal settings can spark curiosity and passion for science. They often inspire lifelong interest and learning in the field.

Informal science education lacks standardized assessment and testing, making it challenging to evaluate and measure the educational impact effectively. The quality and educational value of informal science settings can vary widely. Some may have outdated exhibits or limited explanations, which can affect the learning experience. While informal settings offer a broad range of science topics, they may not provide the same depth of knowledge as formal science education programs or classrooms. Informal science education may not always align with formal curriculum requirements, making it challenging for teachers to integrate these experiences into classroom learning. Not all students have equal access to informal science settings due to geographical location, cost, or transportation issues, potentially contributing to educational disparities. Visitors often spend limited time in these settings, which may restrict the depth of learning and understanding of complex scientific concepts.

Informal science educational settings provide valuable opportunities for hands-on, real-world, and inquiry-based learning, inspiring a passion for science. However, they may lack formal assessment and standardized curricula and vary in quality. The effectiveness of informal science education depends on the individual's interests, the quality of the setting, and how well it complements formal science education.


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