LSC professor Dietram Scheufele awarded National Science Foundation grant to help develop innovative approaches for science learning

LSC professor Dietram Scheufele is part of a team of researchers and museums awarded a National Science Foundation grant to develop and test innovative approaches to communicating chemistry in informal science learning environments. The grant, which has a total award of $2,634,708, is titled “ChemAttitudes: Using Design-Based Research to Develop and Disseminate Strategies and Materials to Support Chemistry Interest, Relevance, and Self-Efficacy.”  Scheufele will serve as the principle investigator for the Wisconsin component of the grant and Scheufele’s advisee Emily Howell, a doctoral student in the Nelson Institute and member of LSC’s SCIMEP research group, will serve as project assistant.

nsf-logoThe grant is led by the Museum of Science in Boston and is a unique collaboration between science museums and research leaders in the field of science communication. Chemistry is present almost everywhere in our lives, and many people are also fearful of “chemicals” in their food or the environment.  So far, however, chemistry is a field that is underrepresented in science museums and other science outreach activities.

“There have not been nearly enough collaborations between museums and researchers in science communication who are actually both working toward the same goals.  So, we’re very excited to contribute to this project and to figure out better ways of communicating how chemistry is part of our everyday lives,” notes Scheufele.

The grant aims to increase the public’s interest and understanding of chemistry, increase people’s perception of chemistry’s relevance in their daily lives, and ensure involvement of audiences that are often underrepresented in the field of chemistry, such as girls, people with disabilities, and Spanish speakers.  One of the key project outcomes includes a guide of activity materials that can be distributed to STEM educational communities across the nation.  While the guide and materials included will focus on chemistry, the goal is for the principles and knowledge gained from the project to be applicable broadly to other STEM disciplines.

The grant will use key theories on how to effectively communicate science and how to affect science attitudes as its framework.  According to LSC chair Dominique Brossard, this makes Scheufele a great fit for the project. “LSC faculty are some of the most prolific and highly cited in the field of science communication and many, including Dietram, have played a key role in developing the theoretical framework for effective science communication.  At LSC our research, teaching, and outreach focuses on theoretical and applied science communication issues, so it is exciting that Dietram is now working on this project which will use the theory we helped to develop and apply it to make chemistry more prominent in science education.”

More information on the grant can be found on the National Science Foundation website.