As part of its overall strategy to enhance learning in informal environments, the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments. This includes providing multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences, advancing innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments, and developing understandings of deeper learning by participants. This project will build and test a new model for co-created public engagement with science activities in partnership with civic, community, and scientist partners. The innovation to be tested is deliberative dialogues in science museums that help reduce the polarization about socio-scientific issues, giving people a greater voice in science, and addressing barriers that disconnect scientists from the public. The project will engage four target audiences (informal science education/ISE professionals, civic, community and scientist partners). Science museum partners include Museum of Science (MOS) Boston, Oregon Museum of Science, the Michigan Science Center, and the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science. The project is designed to have a strategic impact on how ISE institutions choose topics of STEM engagement and build public Forum programs.
There will be two evaluation teams for the project. MOS Research and Evaluation will act as formative evaluation mentors for the four partner sites as they co-create their forums. They will provide evaluation capacity building for the sites using team-based inquiry as they create and understand the potential impacts and outcomes of the model. Data collection will include panel surveys and focus groups. The evaluation will explore how the forums can decrease 1) public polarization around STEM topics and (2) the disconnect between scientists, civic organization, and the public. The external summative evaluation will be conducted by Rockman et al (REA). They will conduct a study of the project's process to help the team identify challenges and strategies for overcoming them as they work through the phases of public engagement. The summative study will focus on the project goals taking a qualitative approach. Early interviews with partner participants will explore their strengths and weaknesses in taking on this type of public engagement model including the extent of their previous work with civic partners. Later interviews will investigate what factors have enabled or hindered this project. Summative evaluation questions will also address changes in attitudes toward public engagement with science. REA will collect feedback from summit attendees through intercept interviews and post-surveys administered within a week at the event's conclusion to explore the any changes in knowledge or confidence in undertaking this type of model. REA will present findings from the external evaluation during the annual meeting of the Association of Science-Technology Centers and publish reports to Informalscience.org. Once the model has been developed and tested it will be disseminated to an initial group of 25-30 science museums and eventually to the entire ISE museum field.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
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