SCIENTIFIC LITERACY OF ADULT PARTICIPANTS IN AN ONLINE CITIZEN SCIENCE PROJECT.
Abstract: Citizen Science projects offer opportunities for non-scientists to
take part in scientific research. Scientific results from these projects have been well
documented. However, there is limited research about how these projects affect their
volunteer participants. In this study, I investigate how participation in an online,
collaborative astronomical citizen science project can be ass... read moreociated with the scientific
literacy of its participants. Scientific literacy is measured through three elements:
attitude towards science, belief in the nature of science and competencies associated with
learning science. The first two elements are measured through a pre-test given to 1,385
participants when they join the project and a post-test given six months later to 125
participants. Attitude towards science was measured using nine Likert-items custom designed
for this project and beliefs in the nature of science were measured using a modified
version of the Nature of Science Knowledge scale. Responses were analyzed using the Rasch
Rating Scale Model. Competencies are measured through analysis of discourse occurring in
online asynchronous discussion forums using the Community of Inquiry framework, which
describes three types of presence in the online forums: cognitive, social and teaching.
Results show that overall attitudes did not change, p = .225. However, there was
significant change towards attitudes about science in the news (positive) and scientific
self efficacy (negative), p < .001 and p = .035 respectively. Beliefs in the nature of
science exhibited a small, but significant increase, p = .04. Relative positioning of
scores on the belief items did not change much, suggesting the increase is mostly due to
reinforcement of current beliefs. The cognitive and teaching presence in the online forums
did not change, p = .807 and p = .505 respectively. However, the social presence did
change, p = .011. Overall, these results suggest that multi-faceted, collaborative citizen
science projects can have an impact on some aspects of scientific literacy. Using the Rasch
Model allowed us to uncover effects that may have otherwise been hidden. Future projects
may want to include social interactivity between participants and also make participants
specifically aware of how they are contributing to the entire scientific
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2011.
Submitted to the Dept. of Education.
Advisor: Hee-Sun Lee.
Committee: Eric Chaisson, Danilo Marchesini, and Tim Slater.
Keywords: Education, General, Education, Technology, and Astronomy.read less