Academic Exchange Quarterly     Spring 2017     ISSN 1096-1453     Volume 21, Issue 1


Guest Editorial

Research in informal learning environments may reveal powerful and desirable characteristics
that would be ideal in any classroom. Clearly, there is a strong opportunity provided for change in knowledge
and thinking in these active and collaborative settings. Informal learning venues are self-directed, fun, playful,
cooperative and highly interactive, all characteristics that appeal to participants of all ages in many settings.
Often many of the elements of instruction that are successful in informal settings can be modeled in the traditional
classroom. Conversely, the more powerful aspects of formal settings are becoming more attractive to informal
educators: the opportunity to understand the kinds of learning, types of reasoning, and change in knowledge that
can drive and motivate learners in formal settings can often be used in informal settings. These two areas, formal
and informal, can inform each other while sharing expertise and maximizing synergy, yielding considerable benefits
for the learners.

After school science programs are but one example of a current trend in education toward a synergy of formal
and informal learning. As classroom teachers develop more lessons and methods based on inquiry, the classroom
takes on more characteristics of informal learning. As informal learning environments like after school science clubs
and programs develop partnerships with schools, many programs acquire some of the strengths of formal learning.
Students in the following article, “Investigating Changes in Science Perceptions”, work on their projects creating synergy
in the classroom as they take advantage to investigate authentic, relevant and engaging problems. They began the
projects by generating questions they would need to investigate to complete their projects following a short lecture by their
instructor. They would work in groups to collaborate as they investigated and revisited research notes, gathered information,
discussed their thoughts with each other, reflected on their progress and continued to conduct these investigations in their
classroom and, for a few lessons, in the field. All the students were eager to learn and contribute to the lesson, and results
reveal that perceptions about the nature of science were changed. “Investigating Changes in Science Perceptions” reveals
how perceptions of science significantly changed as a result of participating in an informal after-school science club at a
small high school in South Texas.

The following AEQ Spring issue is a compilation of articles that are diverse in subjects related to teaching and instruction.
Readers will enjoy reading about subjects such as training students to lead and become leaders, as well as using problem
based inquiry in college chemistry labs. The importance of advisement in a graduate MBA program means decisions must
be made correctly as accreditation issues become more prominent, and these issues are clearly described and relevant to
many colleges of business. Mathematical applications are provided to help students realize the role of context in mathematical
content, bringing new perspectives and understanding to mathematics. The subject of assessment is approached in an unusual
way as it is being used in an interdisciplinary context, a fitting approach for the 21st century. Another article outlines how creative
thinking in a collaborative environment can be accomplished with aesthetic learning. Lastly, using informal science to change
perceptions in science will help STEM educators who may be looking for some problem based learning approaches in science.
Valuable and cutting edge information for today’s instruction serves to help drive progress in STEM fields, and that is the precise
nature of information disseminated in the Spring 2017 issue of Academic Exchange Quarterly.

Cherie McCollough, Ph.D., Associate Professor
Department of Life Sciences.
Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi, TX
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