The Coastal Ocean Environment Summer School in Ghana: Exploring the Research Capacity Building Potential of a Higher Education Informal Science Learning Program
The development of informal science learning programs (ISLPs) is a growing strategy among scientists seeking to engage communities. However, little scholarship exists on higher education ISLPs, limiting best practices for program development. This article explores the perceived impacts for student learners and scientist instructors of an international ISLP focused on marine science, using a mixed-methods approach of questionnaires, interviews, a task-based focus group, and participant observation. Learners perceived an increase in research skills and knowledge, and identified positive impacts associated with networking and forming connections. Learners did not significantly change their attitudes toward marine science or beliefs about careers in science. Instructors felt they helped advance their field and perceived positive impacts from cultural exchange, whereas only a few identified professional development impacts. This study suggests that higher education ISLPs should focus on creating space for different types of connections and increasing how scientists’ participation is valued within the profession.
Full author list: Jennifer M. Moskel, Emily L. Shroyer, Shawn Rowe, Mark D. Needham, and Brian K. Arbic