Constructivism in the third space: challenging pedagogical perceptions of science outreach and science education
Martins Gomes, Diogo
Davison, Kevin G.
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McCauley, V., Martins Gomes, D., & Davison, K. G. (2018). Constructivism in the third space: challenging pedagogical perceptions of science outreach and science education. International Journal of Science Education, Part B, 8(2), 115-134. doi: 10.1080/21548455.2017.1409444
Informal opportunities for young people to engage with science have increased in response to declining uptake in science and a shortage of science graduates. This paper is set in the context of the recent introduction of science at primary level in Ireland and the existence of a great number of science outreach programmes, in particular from universities to support this sector. The recent movement to change science pedagogy in schools towards a focus on inquiry and constructivist methods commands discussion around pedagogical practice in both spaces (education and outreach). Building on the authors research which embraced a qualitative approach to ascertain participant perception of constructivism and understanding of conceptual and pedagogical dilemmas within science education, this paper reports a singularly quantitative insight, carried out in parallel, to facilitate a more formal and standardised comparison within and between populations and to allow generalisation to the larger population. A Constructivist Learning Environment (CLES) survey of both primary teachers (N = 148) and science outreach practitioners (N = 81) in Ireland was conducted, eliciting multiple dimension perceptions, in terms of pedagogical choice and comparative differentiators regarding sex, school size, outreach frequency in the classroom, role of outreach practitioner within their institution, outreach experience of the outreach practitioner. Results challenge beliefs presented in the literature about a deficit of science pedagogy amongst primary level teachers and therefore questions the role of science outreach in this relationship. This study provokes the necessity for a discussion of the third space, arising from the juxtaposition between science outreach and education.