Learning By Doing’s holistic approach to learning

We believe that the best way to learn science is by doing science

By Dr. Yaela Golumbic

Learning is a lifelong process – beginning at birth through young age, schooling and well into adulthood. Learning takes different forms at different stages, and indeed learning within a school or university environment is substantially different from self-guided everyday learning of adults.

But what if we could replicate the experience?

The great education philosopher John Dewey (1859 –1952) claimed, “education is not preparation for life, education is life itself”. Considering learning opportunities in every path of life, Deweys’ approach to education was a social one. He believed in experiential education which posits effective learning as happening when learners are actively involved, and that abstract notions can be best understood when they are related to specific life experiences. From these experiences, new meaning is created, which put plainly, is the process of learning.

Much like John Dewey, Learning By Doing takes a holistic approach to learning. We perceive learning as incorporating cognitive, behavioural and affective dimensions. Or in simple words the content one learns (cognitive), their actions and activities (behavioural), and how this process and knowledge makes them feel (affective) are all aspects of learning. Together these dimensions create an experience, which allows us to grow as people and learners. 

Cognitive - What you learn 
Behavioural - What you do
Affective - How you feel
Three Learning Dimensions

Citizen science is an authentic way to engage people in scientific research. Ranging from environmental data collection to geolocation mapping and through open drug discovery initiatives, citizen scientists are actively engaged in the scientific process. We aim to couple participation in citizen science initiatives for increased science learning in schools. Infusing the formal curriculum with meaningful contexts to drive learning organically lead, with intended goals and outcomes.

Citizen science offers students an opportunity to engage with hands-on science in a natural context with a relevant prospect, as part of their science education. Research on implementing citizen science in schools has taught us that participating in citizen science can foster scientific literacy, critical thinking, social and environmental awareness, and develop student inquiry skills such as making observations, recording measurements and communicating findings. These outcomes align with several curriculum goals and support the three dimensions of the Australian curriculum: science understanding, science inquiry and science as a human endeavour.

To achieve this goal, Learning By Doing is using an evidence-based co-created approach. We position ourselves firstly as learners to better understand current relationships between citizen science and schools, intended and observed learning outcomes in addition to the perceived benefit and challenges of incorporating citizen science in schools. We are conducting a series of studies examining and integrating perspectives of teachers, students and citizen science project leaders. These include investigating current use of citizen science within school environments, identifying the needs of teachers and project leaders, and exploring how and what learning takes place through citizen science. This process will inform our future work in creating resources and guidelines for incorporating citizen science into the formal school curriculum.

By involving students in citizen science, we are encouraging self-guided, everyday learning to occur. We believe this will assist students in developing essential skills and knowledge to engage fruitfully in scientific discussion which are an inherent part of our society and culture.

*Image is courtesy of the Australian Citizen Science Association photo library

References and further reading

Australian curriculum, available at- https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au

Dewey, J. (1938). Experience    and    education    (Vol.    no.    10).    New    York:    The    Macmillan    company.

Jenkins, L.L., (2011). Using citizen science beyond teaching science content: A strategy for making science relevant to students’ lives. Cultural Studies of Science Education. 6(2): 501–508.

Stylinski, C. D., Peterman, K., Phillips, T., Linhart, J., & Becker-Klein, R. (2020). Assessing science inquiry skills of citizen science volunteers: a snapshot of the field. International Journal of Science Education, Part B. 1–16.

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