Science Education in Out-Of-School Contexts

Comparison of Users' and Providers' Ambitions and Perceptions

Contact: Dr. Ines Goldhausen


Out-of-school settings for learning are currently a topic of discussion (Rennie 2007; Reiss 2012). There is a wish for opening schools to new learning experiences that promote student learning. In particular, school laboratories for natural sciences organized by institutions or companies other than schools seem to be especially promising regarding the promotion of young researchers, as they provide opportunities for students to conduct experiments in the context of current scientific issues and to do so in an authentic environment.

Impact studies on the efficiency of school laboratories for natural sciences suggest that making use of school laboratories has positive short-term and middle-term effects on students' interest as well as on their ability to assess their learning process. These results indicate that integrating out-of-school places of learning at least helps to stabilize students' interest. But students who visited school laboratories and conducted experiments there did not learn as efficiently as students who worked on the same topic in class as far as chemical content knowledge is concerned (Guderian&Priemer 2008).

To understand which characteristics of school laboratories contribute to these different effects, we carried out a questionnaire study (N=187) and an interview study (N=30) with German teachers and principals asking for their perceptions of the impact of science education in out-of-school contexts, their expectations of this type of learning and their corresponding personal experiences. Furthermore, we carried out a questionnaire study in which we asked German providers (N=114) of school laboratories for natural sciences organized by institutions or companies other than schools about their ambitions and the respective realization.

A comparison of users' and providers' ambitions and perceptions may lead to changed school laboratory settings that might lead to a better learning efficiency.



Guderian, P., Priemer, B. (2008). Interest promotion through school laboratory visits - a summary of research in Germany. Physics and Didactics in Schools and Universities 2/7, 27-36.

Reiss, M. (2012). Learning out of the classroom. In Oversby, J. (ed.) ASE Guide to Research in Science Education . Hatfield, The Association for Science Education, 91-97.

Rennie, L. J. (2007). Learning science outside of school. In Abell, S. K., Ledermann, N. G. (eds.) Handbook of research on science education. New York, Routledge, 125-167.