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Modelling Informal Learning in the Public Understanding of Science: The Case of Radon Gas.

Alsop, Stephen John. (1998) Modelling Informal Learning in the Public Understanding of Science: The Case of Radon Gas. Doctoral thesis, University of Surrey (United Kingdom)..

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Radon is a naturally occuring invisible gas that seeps into houses and can concentrate without proper ventilation. It is widely recognised as the leading cause of lung cancer after smoking and is estimated to kill over 2000 people annually in the UK. The National Radiological Protection Board estimates that over 6000 houses in the UK have Radon levels where reduction is strongly recommended and in certain geographic areas houses have been recorded with Radon radiation levels at over fifty times the legal dose for nuclear workers. This thesis is a study of the way in which the public learns about this potentially threatening scientific phenomenon. Studies of informal science learning are in their infancy. To enter this emergent field the approach has been to adopt a model of learning from formal science education and adapt this model to provide a theoretical framework to describe informal learning of science. The theoretical perspective used is the epistemological Conceptual Change Model (CCM) of Strike, Posner, Hewson and Gertzog and building upon recent developments this model is extended to incorporate two additional perspectives; the conative and affective. The emergent Extended Conceptual Change Model (ECCM) is a multi-dimensional interpretative framework to consider informal conceptual change learning. The ECCM has three perspectives: the original CCM of Strike, Posner et al. provides the intellectual or cognitive perspective. This suggests that conceptual change will take place when matter to be learned is seen to be intelligible, plausible and fruitful. The affective perspective models the emotional nature of learning and describes conceptual change using the conditions salient, germane and palatable. The conative perspective embodies the need for practical empowerment and uses the conditions actionable, trust and control to model conceptual change. In the tradition of Grounded Theory, the evolution of the ECCM is grounded in the data collected. Through five empirical studies the ECCM is first generated and then validated. The first phase of data collection provides a conceptual review of sources of Radon information that are available in the public domain. The second and third phases explore the understandings of radioactivity and Radon in groups of participants living in Radon affected areas. Through an iterative process these stages are then used to propose the ECCM. In the concluding stages, the model is elaborated, refined and validated by two studies of informal learning: learning from an informal information source (the NRPB Radon Leaflet) and learning in a Somerset village. The arguments presented in this thesis take conceptual change into the affective and conative domains. The concluding comments examine the implications this has for life-long science learning and make specific recommendations for formal and informal education. For informal education the research suggests that Radon communications should: i) be more interactive and personalised; ii) be more transformative rather than informative; iii) be more practically empowering and provide information which is actionable, trustworthy and controllable; and iv) acknowledge the emotional nature of learning. For formal education the thesis recommends that: i) Radon should be part of the school curriculum and ii) school science should give more specific attention to the needs of life-long learning. These needs include conative and affective facets. School science should consider issues of action, control and trust as well as the emotional nature of learning - content should be selected and presented in a way that it is salient, palatable and germane.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Divisions : Theses
Authors : Alsop, Stephen John.
Date : 1998
Additional Information : Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Surrey (United Kingdom), 1998.
Depositing User : EPrints Services
Date Deposited : 30 Apr 2019 08:08
Last Modified : 20 Aug 2019 15:33

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