Participating in the Communication of Science: Identifying Relationships Between Laboratory Space Designs and Students’ Activities


  • Tina Hinton
  • Pippa Yeoman
  • Lucila Carvalho
  • Martin Parisio
  • Margot Day
  • Scott Byrne
  • Amani Bell
  • Kathleen Donohoe
  • Jane Radford
  • Peter Tregloan
  • Philip Poronnik
  • Peter Goodyear


Learning spaces can play a powerful role in shaping and supporting the activities of the students and teachers who use them: they can be agents for change when the success of new pedagogical approaches depends on shifting entrenched practices. The laboratory is a key site for science education. It is here that discipline knowledge and generic competences are fused and honed, in the very act of ‘doing science’. This paper focuses on communication of science. It looks at how students learn to participate in science communication, and acquire both scientific and more generic communication skills, while engaged in laboratory-based activities. This paper reports some findings of ethnographic research that involved observing student activity in laboratories. This opportunity to examine differences in patterns of communicative activity arose from a relocation to new purpose-designed laboratory spaces. Ethnographic research is appropriate for gathering data about space usage. It helps trace relations between student activity, characteristics of the spaces in which the activity is unfolding, the social organisation of the work being done, and the disciplinary practices that underpin the tasks that students are set. Our research identifies the importance of sightlines, communication tools and instructor behaviours in promoting students’ communicative activity. Addendum: Figure 2 has been replaced to ensure ethics requirements are followed.






Published paper