Educating adult females for leadership roles in an informal science program for girls

Dale McCreedy, University of Pennsylvania


The purpose of this study is to gain an understanding of and an evidentiary warrant for, how a community of practice focused on informal science learning, can engage and promote active participation that offers adult female members and the community opportunities for legitimacy and transformation. This study is a qualitative, ethnographic research study that documents how adult female volunteers, historically inexperienced and/or excluded from traditional practices of science, come to engage in science activities through an informal, community-based context that helps them to appreciate science connections in their lives that are ultimately empowering and agentic. I begin to understand the ways in which such informal contexts, often thought to be marginal to dominant educational beliefs and practices, can offer adults outside of the field of science, education, or both, an entrée into science learning and teaching that facilitate female's participation in legitimate and empowering ways. Using descriptive analyses, I first identify the characteristics of peripheral and active program participants. Through phenomenological analyses, I then develop an understanding of participation in an informal science program by focusing on three adult female members' unique trajectories of participation leading to core member status. Each draws on different aspects of the program that they find most salient, illustrating how different elements can serve as motivators for participation, and support continuation along the trajectory of participation reflecting personal and political agency. Through a purposeful ethnographic case-study analysis, I then explore one core member's transformation, evidenced by her developing identities as someone who enjoys science, engages in science activities, and, enacts a role as community old timer and door opener to science learning. This study: (1) contributes to the limited knowledge base in fields of informal learning, science education, and feminist research; (2) provides data that lead to assertions about the impact of NSP participation; and (3) takes advantage of a unique context in which to study adults and the interaction of gender, science, and informal learning.

Subject Area

Science education|Adult education|Continuing education|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

McCreedy, Dale, "Educating adult females for leadership roles in an informal science program for girls" (2003). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3095919.