Learning ecology analysis

Learning happens at any time in a diversity of locations and the SySTEM 2020 project recognises that STEAM learning is not solely attributed to classrooms (formal learning) or museums and science centres (non-formal learning). Instead, learning experiences and knowledge development take place within a complex learning ecosystem, a so-called learning ecology, which is specific to each learner and influenced by their physical, social and cultural contexts.

Over the past 3 years SySTEM 2020 has been trialling five different methodological approaches to evaluate the multiple dimensions of STEAM learning and the ways in which science learning, science attitudes and aptitudes are influenced by learners’ own physical, emotional, social and cultural contexts.

In this latest SySTEM 2020 report, we introduce three of the tools and methods used to assess science learning and science attitudes of young learners and reflect on the potential effects of the evaluation itself and of the tools used on changes to individual learning ecologies. The tools we cover are:

  1. The longitudinal questionnaire, which surveyed the same learners twice within the time frame of one year,
  2. Experience sampling method, which consists of a range of time-sensitive, consecutive and experience-triggered micro-surveys,
  3. Learning portfolios, which are a creative reflection tool created by the learners themselves to capture their own learning processes.

Overall, we got new insights into the way learner engagement is shaped by their own evolving learning ecologies. Non-formal science learning organisations only form one small part of a learners STEAM learning ecology. It is also shaped by many other factors and influences described in this report. The persisting inequities highlighted by the different research tools used suggest that there is still work to be done, in order to not change the learners, but the way science is instead shared, communicated and addressed.


Lisa Marie Seebacher, Irina Vana and Sophie Perry


Centre for Social Innovation and Science Gallery Dublin


SySTEM 2020





Explore SySTEM 2020’s latest tools and findings to help support and cultivate pathways to welcome learners from all backgrounds into science learning.