The development and validation of a learning environment instrument for CSIRO Science Education Centres
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Past research into defining and measuring the characteristics of learning environments in Science Education Centres and Science Museums (SECSMs) has been based upon low-inference measures, such as observations and interviews. Many searchers feel that the diversity of informal education settings in SECSMs makes it difficult to develop high-inference measures for informal learning environments. This study used the semiformal environment of the CSIRO Science Education Centres as a stepping-stone between formal and informal learning environments. A review of learning environment research identified a possible procedure for the development of, and a format for, a suitable instrument. Research in SECSMs was reviewed to identify learning environment factors that defined the CSIROSEC learning environment. A pilot study was conducted to determine the feasibility of developing a learning environment instrument for CSIROSECs. This led to the more formal process of developing a learning environment instrument for CSIROSECs based upon the five scales of Affect, Social Interaction, Novelty, Independence and Involvement.A number of cycles of testing of the instrument, statistical analyses, and subsequent refinements resulted in the Learning Environment Instrument for CSIRO Science Education Centres (LEI for CSIROSECs). The instrument measures distinct, if somewhat overlapping, aspects of the learning environment. The LEI for CSIROSECs displays comparable measures for internal consistency (alpha reliability) and discriminant validity to existing learning environment instruments. The sensitivity of the instrument has been demonstrated for the comparison of different classes, comparison of teacher-student perceptions, comparison of primary and secondary classes, and the comparison of CSIROSEC programs. Suggestions have been made for applications of the LEI for CSIROSECs and its further development,as well as its potential use in research.
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