Community-driven Science in Students Urban Development of Deprived City Areas

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City councils worldwide are facing multiple complex problems that significantly impact the quality of life of citizens. For example, inequality is rising in big cities globally, causing socioeconomic destabilization and causing conditions that are altering people’s everyday lives. Together, these trends lead to disparities in overall conditions in terms of social well-being (European Commission, 2019). Local city governments traditionally address and solve complex problems, but in recent years, the role of citizens as important actors has been rediscovered in policy development and service delivery, turning citizen engagement and co-creation into well-known practices in urban development in many European cities (Brandsen, Steen, & Verschuere, 2018; Fugini, & Teimourikia, 2016). Community and citizen science (CCS) (Ballard, Harris, & Dixon, 2018; Harris, et al., 2019) and the participation of citizens in solving complex problems in collaboration with scientists and technical experts (OECD, 2011) represent a more recent approach for involving citizens in solving complex urban problems. Citizen awareness and competencies in real-world problem solving and collaboration are highlighted as key future skills (Griffin et al., 2012) and research on student participation in citizen science projects indicates that it increases knowledge and enhances their understanding of the scientific research process (Ballard, Dixon, & Harris, 2017; Golumbic Baram-Tsabari & Fishbain, 2016). These results are central in understanding what competences students develop in citizen science projects, but collaboration between actors in different communities and how it can enhance community-driven science still needs to be studied more in depth. In this paper, we present the results from the two urban development projects Cities at Play (2015-2018) and Community Drive (2018-2021) alongside a broader discussion of the different approaches to and results of learning specific to educational community-driven science projects. The presented projects involved students who collaborated with urban planners and architects from Copenhagen City in developing their local deprived neighborhoods. The projects were developed and implemented as a collaboration between Aalborg University, the social and technical departments of City of Copenhagen and a total of 12 school classes grades 5-9 who participated in the period from 2014-2020. The primary research goal was to understand how community-driven science can be integrated into school education and, in addition, to identify the learning and practices that emerged from the collaboration. The project applied a mixed-methods approach (Creswell, 2018), and the educational design of the project applied a design thinking approach in which students went through phases of discovery, interpretation, ideation, and experimentation in developing their neighborhood (Cross, 1982). Both physical tools and digital tools such as the game Minecraft have been made available for students to use in the redesign of their deprived neighborhoods and the generation of solutions to problems in their local areas. The research projects were specifically focused on understanding what competences students applied and developed in the collaboration with professional urban developers (Magnussen & Elming, 2017). As part of the project, a performance test was thus developed, pre- and post-tests of four design thinking competencies—empathy, ideation, model construction, and process management—were conducted to assess students’ design competences (Rusmann & Bundsgaard, 2019; Rusmann & Ejsing-Duun, forthcoming). Surveys of students’ perceived understanding of their citizen and community participation and collaboration were also conducted, as well as observations of student work and qualitative interviews with students, teachers, and the professional collaboration partners outside of the schools. The paper discusses what hybrid competences students develop in community-driven science projects with focus on citizen participation in urban development and education. Students both participate with local knowledge as citizens in the local community and are also invited to take on the urban planner perspective and adopt the professional ways of thinking, talking, and viewing their local neighborhoods. As a result, they build competencies and develop redesigns of their local city spaces based on both perspectives. As young citizens in their local neighborhoods, they were able to identify and develop for the needs of their own age group. With the new perspective of the community of professional urban planners, they were also able to define and visualize needs of other members of the local community and identify what emotions and moods specific city designs invoke in citizens. Overall, the results showed that students could expand their knowledge and apply their local expertise by engaging in a process of collaboration with other students and professional urban planners. Over the course of the project, students became aware of the authentic knowledge that they possessed about their local community and urban areas and were able to connect it to structural changes. They could then relate their authentic knowledge about the problems and potential of their neighborhood to the urban area’s physical and structural features and the professional principles accompanying the development of design solutions. By comparison with everyday schooling, helping other people in the community, solving problems in the real world, and being in control of their own process and decision-making proved to be important practices experienced by participants during the urban development project courses. These results are further discussed in the overall perspective of community-driven science. Researching and developing with communities in an educational context requires that partners take the specificities of the local communities as well as the professional communities into consideration, such as the negotiations, practices, and epistemic values of members. In an educational context, community-driven science projects should present participants with complex tasks that can only be solved by applying contextual expertise and knowledge (Bela et al., 2016, Magnussen et al., 2014, Magnussen & Stensgaard, 2019). Projects should also allow participants and professionals to develop additional epistemic knowledge and competences based on their collaboration with participants outside of their fields. This also puts an emphasis on the development of collaborative systems for citizen science, in which learning designs become a central part of the system itself to support education that leads to the further development of the citizens’ firsthand knowledge and competences. Focus should be on strengthening citizens ability to utilize elements of the professional epistemic framework to understand and act in developing their local community. References Ballard, H.L., Harris, E.M., Dixon, C.G.H. 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Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Research in Science Teaching
Publication statusIn preparation - 2021

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