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Course Category: Other
Focus of Study
Ten months in the in Science Communication programme is an intense experience. Courses cover the theory underlying good communication as well as the practical challenges of effectively communicating science and the issues involving science in society. Science in print, on radio, on television, or on the internet; science at science centres, presentations to live audiences, all are covered. Ten university graduate courses, taken over one year, deal with learning theory and principles of science communication, science issues in society, practical experience of oral communication, mass media, exhibit development, and information technology.
The program is jointly hosted by Laurentian University and Science North, the second-largest science centre in Canada. Some courses are offered on the Laurentian campus, at the Vale Living With Lakes Centre; others are a short distance away at Science North.
Successful applicants are graduates from four year honours programs in science, engineering or technology, or with equivalent qualifications or experience. However, applicants might also include graduates of science, technology and society programs, liberal science, or other university programs from which they have gained a demonstrated ability to understand scientific knowledge and to analyze scientific issues.
In addition to recent university graduates, people who have obtained science degrees and now work in the field of science, science communication or science education such as research scientists, technologists, science centre and museum interpreters, science journalists and science teachers will have the opportunity to enhance their expertise as professional communicators through this program.
The courses of this graduate diploma are grouped in four modules:
- Module 1 – Theoretical and Practical Foundations
- Module 2 – Understanding the Development Process
- Module 3 – Development Experience
- Module 4 – Research Project
SCOM 5016 Audiences and Issues
This course introduces students to communicating with different public audiences and self-evaluation strategies. Students will learn to adapt their communication approach to the needs, background knowledge, values, attitudes and risk perception of different audiences in the context of current science and technology issues. Students will gain practical experience throughout Science North’s different labs and programs. The practicum includes science centre labs, outreach, discovery camp and special events during an intensive “Audiences Camp” in late August. Total of 75 practicum hrs.
SCOM 5026 Learning: Theories and Practice
This course introduces students to current theories of learning relevant to communicating science. Students will explore Piaget’s theory of cognitive development and the growth of scientific understanding from infancy to adulthood; the constructivist approach to learning and the current research on life-long free-choice learning in informal setting; the research and practice in cognitive skills development in science and technology as it pertains to program development; and current research concerning adult learners and learning styles. Only available to students in the Science Communication Program.
SCOM 5036 Theories and Principles of Science Communication
This course will provide a conceptual framework for understanding the forms and functions of science communication practices by drawing on rhetorical theory and rhetorical studies of scientific communication. The course addresses two main areas. Basic Rhetorical Concepts and Principles introduces students to topics such as language as action, rhetorical situations, modes of effective communication and techniques of argumentation. Rhetoric of Science explores recent research into the rhetoric of science and its relevance to science communication practices.
SCOM 5056 Design Theory in Science Communication
Students will study the theory of design and its application to science communication. There are three components covered in this course: content design – conceptual organization of scientific knowledge for learnability; format design – selection of modes and protocols of presentation for effective free choice learning; production design – development of communication artifacts within project standards and constraints.
SCOM 5066 Science Communication Practice
Students will create science communication artifacts in different modes of science communication such as exhibits, live programming, information technology, and mass media. The focus in this practical course is on consideration of learning theory, audience composition, design theory, the social, political and ethical context, to best develop effective forms of science communication. Guest presenters, field trips and meetings with science communication professionals will complement the curriculum.
SCOM 5076 Communicating Science through Exhibits
In this course, students apply effective communication strategies to research design and develop a prototype science exhibit for public use. Students will also prepare a design rationale for their final product. Lectures will cover such topics as: exhibit design and signage writing philosophy from around the globe; analysing museum and science centre exhibit research; establishing scientifically credible and balanced content; anthropometric issues and health and safety issues; writing signage for a lay audience; evaluating exhibits. Total of 100 project hrs.
SCOM 5086 Communicating Science through Live Programming
Students will take responsibility for the design, development, delivery and evaluation of their own show, workshop, program or field trip as their assignment. Learning theories and communication methods will be discussed and applied in the development of the project. Lectures will address topics such as: content analysis and design for effective learning; establishing scientifically credible and balanced content; adapting to audience response; presentation skills; retaining audience attention; theatrical techniques; evaluation of live programs. Total of 100 project hrs.
SCOM 5106 Communicating Science through Mass Media
Students will prepare proposals and content outlines, for shows and articles on topics of their choosing. This will include researching the science, justifying the content and storyline, developing proposals, interviewing scientists, and compiling segments into edited stories. The emphasis will be on effective communication of the science rather than on technical aspects of the production process. Each student will be responsible for preparing a portfolio of work for evaluation, including a more intensively developed project piece for television, radio or print. When possible this course will include a placement situation with a suitable media organization. Total of 100 project hrs.
SCOM 5116 Research Methods in Science Communication
This course will familiarize students with empirical research methods to evaluate the effectiveness of all forms of science communication. Understanding audience response to science communication is an evolving field and methods of evaluation and assessment are continuously being tested and revised. In the context of science communication, lectures and seminars will cover qualitative and quantitative research methods; data collection and data analysis; focus groups; interview methods; questionnaire design; grounded theory research; experimental design; ethics of research with human subjects. Students will be able to employ these methods during their research project (SCOM 5125).
SCOM 5125 Research Project in Science Communication
Students will choose a topic or area of interest to them in consultation with the course coordinator; review the relevant literature; decide on a research question; design and conduct a study to answer that question; analyze the data and write a research report of between 6000 and 9000 words. In addition to submitting a research report students will give an oral presentation of their project. Appropriate ethics committee approval will be required for all projects involving human subjects.