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Correlating Science Center Use With Adult Science Literacy: An International, Cross-Institutional Study

Journal article
Authors John H. Falk
Lynn D. Dierking
Lisa Prendergast Swanger
Nancy Staus
Mariana Back
Chantal Barriault
Carlos Catalao
Cindy Chambers
Ling Ling Chew
Svein A. Dahl
Sigrid Falla
Bern Gorecki
Tak Cheung Lau
Andy Lloyd
Jennifer Martin
Jennifer Santer
Silvia Singer
Anne Solli
Gabrielle Trepanier
Kati Tyystjärvi
Patricia Verheyden
Published in Science Education
Volume 100
Issue 5
Pages 849-876
ISSN 00368326
Publication year 2016
Published at
Pages 849-876
Language en
Subject categories Educational Sciences


© 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. This international investigation was designed to determine if, and under what circumstances experiences at science centers, significantly correlated with a range of adult general public science and technology literacy measures. Given the complex and cumulative nature of science and technology learning, and the highly variable and free-choice nature of science center experiences, an epidemiological research approach was used. Quantitative surveys were administered to 6,089 adults living in 17 communities located in 13 countries; all with active science centers. Data collection and analysis protocols ensured a representative sampling based on age, education, and income from each of the 17 participating communities. Results showed that individuals who used science centers had significantly higher understanding, interest and curiosity, participation in free-choice leisure activities, and identity relative to science and technology than did individuals who did not visit; even when potential self-selection biases such as income, education level, and prior interest were taken into consideration. These findings significantly strengthen the argument that the presence of one or more healthy and active science centers within a community, region, or country represents a vital investment for fostering and maintaining a scientifically and technologically informed, engaged, and literate public.

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