|Ph.D Student||Peleg Ran|
|Subject||Science Plays in Elementary Science Education|
|Department||Department of Education in Science and Technology||Supervisors||Professor Ayelet Baram-Tsabari|
|Professor Emeritus Abraham Berman|
|Full Thesis text|
Informal learning environments can afford children with a positive exposure to science. Traditionally research on such environments focused on learning in museums. Research is now beginning to crystalize on another out-of-class environment: educational science theatre. The aim of this thesis is to expand the theoretical, methodological and empirical knowledge on learning science from theatre plays. Constructivist theories of learning guide the thesis, namely conceptual change theory, sociocultural theory and the contextual model. Due to the scarce available research, an ideographic approach was adopted with three in-depth studies of educational science plays for elementary school audience:
1) “Atom Surprise” - a two actor play portraying concepts on the topic of matter. The study focused on the cognitive and affective learning outcomes of watching the play, as well as children's perceptions of the theatrical elements and their ability to distinguish between the fictive and scientific contents.
2) "Darwin's Journey" - a one actor/one puppeteer play on evolution presented in a science museum. Performance and spectator analyses from theatre studies were used to link the producers' intended aims, their manifestation in the written script and the actual learning outcomes. A conflict of didactics versus aesthetics was used as an interpretive lens.
3) "Robot and I" - a one actor play on robotics presented in a major science museum. Data were analysed using the contextual model from informal science education and Eversmann's model of the theatrical event from theatre studies.
In all studies data were collected using questionnaires and interviews and analysed by a mixed-methods approach. Following themes emerged:
- Educational science plays can afford cognitive knowledge gains. In all three plays children gained conceptual knowledge.
- Explicit educational aims were decoded more successfully by viewers than implicit ones. Young viewers have limited ability to fill in gaps in implicit information.
- The source of the knowledge presented in the play is significant in children’s willingness to integrate this knowledge into their own. When the source of knowledge was a teacher or a textbook, viewers separated the fictive plot and the science (integration), but when the source of knowledge was a child protagonist, viewers did not separate the science from its context (compartmentalization).
- Interactive communication between actors and audience is an important and memorable experience.
- Educational science theatre inevitably carries social and moral values, which should be considered when producing such plays.
- Children are very sensitive to artistic style of plays.