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6 Assessing Learning Outcomes
Pages 103-118

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From page 103...
... CHALLENGES OF ASSESSING SCIENCE LEARNING IN INFORMAL SETTINGS The characteristics of informal learning environments make it very difficult to develop practical, evidence-centered ways to assess learning outcomes. For exam ple, during a short trip to a museum, not only is assessment logistically complex, but also the data gathered are hard to interpret.
From page 104...
... The challenge thus becomes how to document the learning that occurs while not sacrificing the freedom and spontaneity that is integral to the experience. The collaborative and social aspects inherent in many informal experiences also pose a challenge for assessing learning.
From page 105...
... In fact, defining outcomes and target audiences for informal science learning experiences can be the most challenging tasks in the assessment process because it requires a deep understanding about purpose and the various ways in which informal experi ences may be connected to past and future learning experiences. Once goals and audience have been identified, the means of measuring these goals need to be established.
From page 106...
... and can be used to infer outcomes -- to examine how using knowledge about wolf behavior and ecology helped players advance in the game. Using embedded data ensures that data collection does not interfere with the experience itself, thus ful filling two of the three above-mentioned criteria: alignment with the experience and ensuring ecological validity.
From page 107...
... The evalu ation conducted for the IMAX film Coral Reef Adventure (Chapter 5) used this strategy and collected compelling information about how the film led to changes in attitudes and behaviors.
From page 108...
... •   Outcomes can become evident at different points in time. While short-term outcomes have long been used to assess the impact of informal learning experiences, it is becoming increasingly evident that these experiences can have enduring, long-term impacts as well.
From page 109...
... The NSF Evaluation Framework for Informal Science Education Recognizing the challenge of developing appropriate, measurable, and valid impacts for informal experiences for learning science, the National Science Foundation (NSF) developed a set of impact categories that can be used to help guide planning, assessment, and evaluation of projects.5 The impact categories are as follows with connections to the six strands identified where appropriate: •   Knowledge.
From page 110...
... The framework also allows for other than these five predetermined categories, thus recognizing that informal science settings may influence visitors, audiences, or participants in many different and important ways. " Without a common framework specifying outcomes " and approaches, it is difficult to show gains in learning that occur across experiences and/or across time.
From page 111...
... The broad enterprise of evaluation includes various phases, which tend to be referred to in the field of informal science education as front-end evaluation, for mative evaluation, and summative evaluation. The first stage of program develop ment, which includes identifying appropriate goals and determining the audience, is often referred to as front-end evaluation.
From page 112...
... Summative evaluations document program or project success and are often done as part of accountability measures, although more and more, calls for generalizable results move many summative evaluation designs into research with the potential to inform practice or contribute to the overall knowledge base. A full discussion of the complexities of evaluation, including appropriate designs, is beyond the scope of this book.
From page 113...
... Assessment measures need to be collected in ways that do not violate the experience itself. Embedded or authentic assessments may most appropriately document science learning from informal experiences.
From page 114...
... •   Seek outside expertise. Cooperation and collaboration with academic institu tions or professional evaluators will provide access to important knowledge and skills, but ensure that the professionals have the appropriate qualifications and experience to address the unique features and complexities of informal sci ence learning.
From page 115...
... Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Visitor Studies Association, Philadelphia. National Research Council.
From page 117...
... PART III Reaching Across Communities, Time, and Space


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