Science centres and museums

09/03/2017

This paper briefly describes a new academic discussion project first presented on November 29th, 2016, at the "Universum Sciences Museum" in Mexico City. Interdisciplinary professionals comprise the Museological Reflections Group (MRG), whose aim is to think and explore new possibilities for science museums. The group's first edition, offered the theme "The Sciences behind Showcases: Anthropological and Archaeological Processes".

22/06/2016

This commentary seeks to spark further discussion on the continuing professional development in science communication, presenting comments from practitioners who were asked to reflect on the competences and skills their profession requires, and to envisage what kind of training might provide them. This introduction presents some common issues that emerge within the comments: the necessity to face rapidly evolving professional landscapes, to answer to new missions and roles, to consider the growing impact and potential of new technologies. Alternative training methods are also discussed.

26/05/2016

The letter compares and contrasts thinking about making science accessible and relevant to children in science centres and museums with thinking about communication in social history museums.

10/05/2016

This study aims to investigate whether different types of museum visits have specific ways to influence the visitors' experience and learning. Three types of museum visits as offered by the Museo della Scienza e della Tecnologia "Leonardo da Vinci" in Milan, Italy were taken into consideration: free tour, guided tour, and lab. The study involved visitors over 25 years of age. The way visits took place, the visitors' learning and experiences were investigated based on evidence collected using methods such as Personal Meaning Mapping and observation. Our study has revealed that the outcomes of the visits vary in terms of visitor experience and depth of knowledge on the main subject. No significant differences were found as concerns the level of attention (visitors proved to be attentive while at the museum regardless of the type of visit).

15/12/2015

Teaching mathematics in informal settings is a relatively new phenomenon, but it has gained more attention due to the recent changes in the society. The aim of the present quantitative study was to compare the learning outcomes of Latvian and Swedish 12-year-olds when they visited a science centre mathematics-art exhibition originally designed in Estonia. The results showed that in general, prior knowledge of the exhibition contents was the strongest predictor of post-test results in both countries but that mathematical thinking skills and self-concept had a small added value in explaining the post-test results. The results of the study give some of the first pieces of evidence of the effectiveness of out-of-school mathematics teaching in a science exhibition context, providing a good basis for further studies.

29/09/2015

King et al. [2015] argue that ‘emphasis on impact is obfuscating the valuable role of evaluation’ in informal science learning and public engagement (p. 1). The article touches on a number of important issues pertaining to the role of evaluation, informal learning, science communication and public engagement practice. In this critical response essay, I highlight the article’s tendency to construct a straw man version of ‘impact evaluation’ that is impossible to achieve, while exaggerating the value of simple forms of feedback-based evaluation exemplified in the article. I also identify a problematic tendency, evident in the article, to view the role of ‘impact evaluation’ in advocacy terms rather than as a means of improving practice. I go through the evaluation example presented in the article to highlight alternative, impact-oriented evaluation strategies, which would have addressed the targeted outcomes more appropriately than the methods used by King et al. [2015]. I conclude that impact evaluation can be much more widely deployed to deliver essential practical insights for informal learning and public engagement practitioners.

29/09/2015

Whilst welcoming Jensen’s response to our original paper, we suggest that our main argument may have been missed. We agree that there are many methods for conducting impact assessments in informal settings. However, the capacity to use such tools is beyond the scope of many practitioners with limited budgets, time, and appropriate expertise to interpret findings.
More particularly, we reiterate the importance of challenging the prevailing policy discourse in which longitudinal impact studies are regarded as the ‘gold standard’, and instead call for a new discourse that acknowledges what is feasible and useful in informal sector evaluation practice.

14/05/2015

Communication of scientific knowledge has been caught up in a pedagogical struggle between science literacy ideologies. The backseat role taken by the teaching of the philosophical and sociological aspects of science has come under fire by those calling for a broader view of science to be made public under the umbrella term “critical science literacy”. In this paper, we argue that the lack of unfinished science in museums — science still in the making or still being debated — is a paradigm case where the richer, fuller view of science is being denied air by the presentation of science as a finished, objective set of facts. We argue that unfinished science offers us the opportunity to present the full complexity of science, including its social and philosophical aspects, and thus enabling the “critical” of critical science literacy.

28/04/2015

This paper discusses the value and place of evaluation amidst increasing demands for impact. We note that most informal learning institutions do not have the funds, staff or expertise to conduct impact assessments requiring, as they do, the implementation of rigorous research methodologies. However, many museums and science centres do have the experience and capacity to design and conduct site-specific evaluation protocols that result in valuable and useful insights to inform ongoing and future practice. To illustrate our argument, we discuss the evaluation findings from a museum-led teacher professional development programme, Talk Science.

23/04/2015

In this paper, we investigate who are the explainers who work is Brazilian science centres and museums. We used an online survey, which was answered by 370 people from 73 institutions out of a group of 200 scientific and cultural centres. Our results indicate that most of these professionals are young people between 18 and 25 years old, they hold a high school certificate or are attending university, and they have been working in this field for less than five years. Only a fifth declared that they had done professional training before starting their activities; about 60% said that they are not prepared to attend to disabled visitors. We believe that our study will improve the practice of science communication, contributing to the creation of training and professional courses.

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