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Who’s Helping Whom? The Multifaceted Value of Engaging Ocean Scientists in Professional Learning Communities

Professional learning communities (PLCs) are one model for helping improve collaboration between scientists, educators and public audiences and hold inherent value for engaging scientists in educational and outreach programming. This session discusses evaluation findings from three different education and outreach programs in California and Oregon, including the Exploratorium’s Embedding NOAA in a Public Learning Laboratory, Oregon Coast Marine and Aquatic Partnership, and the Oregon Coastal Master Naturalist Program.

Findings from these programs highlight the variety of ways collaboration in these communities are valuable to all members when members begin to recognize that they are both simultaneously learners and teachers. The findings also suggest that collaboration in PLCs does not happen naturally, but rather requires that particular strategies are necessary to support learning in all directions. We argue that scientists in PLCs have the potential to not only communicate science content but also learn about audiences, audience needs, and tools for communicating effectively. Concurrently, publics (including formal and informal educators) can benefit from PLCs by recognizing that they are equal contributors to the conversation around both science content and effective communication.

Presented by Laura Dover-Good and Michelle Mileham at the 2012 Ocean Sciences Meeting, Salt Lake City, UT

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