Perspectives on a researcher-practitioner partnership: Our role as practitioner researchers studying youth learning through participation in NHM-led citizen science

Pratt-Taweh, S.; Jennewein, J.N.; Miller, A.E.; Robinson, L.D.; Burton, V; Ballard, H.L.; Ghadiri Khanaposhtani, M.; Lorke, J.; Wardlaw, J; Higgins, L.M.; Young, A.N.; Johnson, R.F.; Herodotou, Christothea; Aristeidou, Maria; Miller, G.; Sanghera, H.; Benavides-Lahnstein, A.I. and Ismail, N. (2020). Perspectives on a researcher-practitioner partnership: Our role as practitioner researchers studying youth learning through participation in NHM-led citizen science. In: European Citizen Science Association, 9-11 Sep 2020, Trieste, Italy.

Abstract

The Learning and Environmental Science Agency Research Network for Citizen Science (LEARN CitSci) brings together practitioners and researchers from The University of California, Davis; California Academy of Sciences; Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County; The Natural History Museum, London; The Open University; and The University of Oxford. Through close collaboration between education researchers and natural history museums (NHMs), we aim to answer key questions about youth participation and learning in citizen science.

The Project Coordination Officers (PCOs) play a key role, with one PCO based at each of the three NHMs. Each PCO works as a “practitioner researcher”, collecting field-based educational research data and facilitating collaboration between the museums and the university researchers. Here we provide an overview of the LEARN CitSci study design and analytical framework, highlighting the unique perspective of the PCOs.

The LEARN CitSci team is studying the learning outcomes of youth participating in three citizen science settings: 1) long-term monitoring projects, 2) short-term BioBlitz events, and 3) online projects. Our project asks: What types of participation activities do young people engage in; How do they learn through their participation in citizen science? And, How can programme settings in NHM-led citizen science be designed to foster environmental science learning outcomes?

Using the Environmental Science Agency (ESA) framework [1] adapted from Basu and Calabrese Barton’s [2] concept of Critical Science Agency, we are investigating young people’s “ability to use experiences in environmental science to make positive changes in one’s life, landscape and community.” The development of ESA can be observed as:
- Deepening understanding of environmental science content and practice.
- Identifying an area of one’s own expertise in environmental science.
- Using experiences in community and citizen science as a foundation for change.

We use qualitative research methods, including youth observations, ethnographic field notes, interviews, and surveys, to characterize the settings and participation activities in each programme. We aim to capture learning processes and to identify how program features in NHM-led citizen science projects foster or hinder the development of ESA.

The voices and experiences of youth participants in citizen science programs are central to this research. The NHMs are collaborating with Community-Based Organizations which support underrepresented groups of youth, in an effort to address equity and social justice in community and citizen science.

This poster discussed the challenges and triumphs of the PCO role, such as :
Observing youth impartially while embedded in programming
Working with our theoretical framework as novice researchers
Developing a shared understanding of constructs like learning and agency across diverse contexts
Developing new program design features based on research findings
Cultivating communication and mutually beneficial collaborations with Community-Based Organizations

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