Social learning systems in zoo and aquarium education : networks and communities of practice
- Humans are social animals. We connect with others for a range of reasons including support, overcoming challenges, and to help us learn, among others. Though learning can occur in a variety of social contexts, the workplace is a particularly interesting venue, given the amount of time we spend at work and the potential consequences and benefits of what we learn. Learning in professional settings often occurs through interactions with colleagues. These connections can affect what kinds and how effectively work is accomplished. Because of the potential importance of learning related to professional practice, and the impacts of these outcomes, this is a fruitful area of research. This dissertation is comprised of three papers studying the nature of learning in a social workplace setting. In all three studies, I consider relationships among education professionals at zoos and aquariums to understand the roles of individuals in a networked learning community and the ways in which relationships among these individuals influence the sharing of resources and knowledge. I focus on evaluation as a core task of these educators because of the complex nature of evaluation and because evaluation is a requirement for zoo and aquarium educators according to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). I examine two populations of zoo and aquarium educators; one group consists of individuals holding analogous positions at a single institution, and another consists of individuals with analogous positions spread across institutions throughout the country. In the first paper of this dissertation, I examine the relationship between network characteristics and different approaches to seeking information and sharing resources in a community of practice. I operationalize the concept of social learning through applying the communities of practice framework. This framework offers insight into the social dynamics, information flows, and factors inherent in communities of zoo and aquarium educators. I asked educators working at zoos and aquariums across the country to complete a social network survey, exploring the factors influencing communication about evaluation in their field. To achieve a deeper understanding of how group members describe influences on their social learning, I then conducted interviews with each individual about their responses. I use these data to understand how centrality correlates with perception and involvement in the nationwide zoo-and-aquarium education community. In the second paper of the dissertation, I use the same population of individuals spread across multiple institutions to present a four genres of participation in resource and information seeking among members of a community of practice. Through semi-structured interviews conducted with the educators, I gather in-depth information about the avenues that these individuals take to seek out new information, tools, or resources to help them with their jobs. From the analysis of these interviews, I derive illustrative examples of different approaches to information seeking and resource sharing. These examples contribute to the development of a typology of zoo-and-aquarium education professionals and their approaches to learning. The third dissertation paper examines structures of learning among zoo education professionals and how those structures change over the course of a fixed-duration project. I use the communities of practice framework in tandem with social network analyses to understand how the structure of a networked learning community changes over time and the ways in which these changes correlate with approaches to and perceptions of evaluation. My findings suggest that the roles of individuals in a networked learning community change over the course of the project. Factors such as perceptions of experience and convenience correlate with the formation and sustenance of professional relationships. This work contributes to the understanding of the dynamic nature of social learning as well as the process of sharing and obtaining information about a complicated job-related task, such as evaluation.
|Type of resource
|electronic; electronic resource; remote
|1 online resource.
|Khalil, Kathayoon A
|Stanford University, Graduate School of Education.
|Ardoin, Nicole M. (Nicole Michele)
|Ardoin, Nicole M. (Nicole Michele)
|Statement of responsibility
|Kathayoon A. Khalil.
|Submitted to the Graduate School of Education.
|Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2014.
- © 2014 by Kathayoon Azra Khalil
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).
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