Many informal science organisations, such as museums, science centres, zoos and national parks, provide field trip and outreach programs for schools. These organisations find program evaluation increasingly necessary, but often lack tools for effective evaluation given limited time and resources. Research-based evaluation of field trip and outreach programs serving secondary students (years 8 to 12 or 13 to 18 y.o.) is particularly limited.

This paper reports ongoing evaluation of a science centre outreach program designed to inform and inspire year 10 (15-16 y.o.) students about career opportunities in science. A number of factors, including the multimedia format of the presentation, limit presenters’ ability to tailor the show for different school audiences. Designers and presenters thus face the challenge of creating a single, 45-minute presentation that can engage both university-bound students preparing to select post-compulsory academic subjects and students entering trades, for whom applied science and scientific literacy is more relevant.

We used a worksheet of four open ended questions to gather feedback from students and teachers and identified themes through content analysis. An initial survey of two schools, including 271 students and 3 teachers, revealed divergent audience perceptions. One school found it satisfactory, while the other felt it contained too much entertainment and not enough career information. Based on this feedback, the show was redesigned to emphasise career information and reduce time devoted to demonstrations. We used the same evaluation process to gather feedback on the revised show from 90 students and three teachers at a third school.

While each school audience reacted differently to the outreach program, in each case students’ perceptions aligned closely to those of their teachers. Findings suggest that a simple, open-ended questionnaire can be a useful tool for program evaluation, and that the views of classroom teachers may be a good indicator of how students are likely to perceive an outreach program. Implications for informal science practitioners will be discussed.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Research-based evaluation to improve science outreach in schools

Sophia Bickford   The University of Western Australia

Nancy Longnecker   The University of Western Australia

Grady Venville   The University of Western Australia

Many informal science organisations, such as museums, science centres, zoos and national parks, provide field trip and outreach programs for schools. These organisations find program evaluation increasingly necessary, but often lack tools for effective evaluation given limited time and resources. Research-based evaluation of field trip and outreach programs serving secondary students (years 8 to 12 or 13 to 18 y.o.) is particularly limited.

This paper reports ongoing evaluation of a science centre outreach program designed to inform and inspire year 10 (15-16 y.o.) students about career opportunities in science. A number of factors, including the multimedia format of the presentation, limit presenters’ ability to tailor the show for different school audiences. Designers and presenters thus face the challenge of creating a single, 45-minute presentation that can engage both university-bound students preparing to select post-compulsory academic subjects and students entering trades, for whom applied science and scientific literacy is more relevant.

We used a worksheet of four open ended questions to gather feedback from students and teachers and identified themes through content analysis. An initial survey of two schools, including 271 students and 3 teachers, revealed divergent audience perceptions. One school found it satisfactory, while the other felt it contained too much entertainment and not enough career information. Based on this feedback, the show was redesigned to emphasise career information and reduce time devoted to demonstrations. We used the same evaluation process to gather feedback on the revised show from 90 students and three teachers at a third school.

While each school audience reacted differently to the outreach program, in each case students’ perceptions aligned closely to those of their teachers. Findings suggest that a simple, open-ended questionnaire can be a useful tool for program evaluation, and that the views of classroom teachers may be a good indicator of how students are likely to perceive an outreach program. Implications for informal science practitioners will be discussed.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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