Absolute Zero Summative Evaluation

October 1st, 2008 | EVALUATION

In 2008, Goodman Research Group, Inc. (GRG) conducted summative evaluation of Absolute Zero, a collaborative effort of the University of Oregon's Cryogenic Helium Turbulence Laboratory and Twin Cities Public Television. The films were produced by Meridian/Windfall Productions, Washington DC, and/Windfall Films in London, UK. Outreach was spearheaded by Devillier Communications, Inc. The Absolute Zero project was centered on a two-part documentary about low-temperature physics, which aired on PBS/NOVA in early January 2008, as well as an outreach campaign, which included approximately 20 National Partner and Participant organizations, scientific experts, a website, and two educational outreach guides.The main goal of the summative evaluation was to assess the influence of the series on viewers and to explore the extent to which the outreach activities, materials, and partnerships were effective. The full evaluation report details methods and results across all components of evaluation, including evaluation of the broadcast with adults as well as with middle and high school students and evaluation of the outreach campaign and outreach materials with National Partners and Participants, Absolute Zero Experts, and science teachers.METHODS GRG used a multi-method approach to evaluate the Absolute Zero broadcast, outreach campaign, and outreach materials. For the evaluation of the broadcast, 52 adult participants who are regular NOVA viewers and 354 middle and high school students participated in a viewer study. They viewed both hours of the Absolute Zero broadcast and completed surveys: one before viewing, one between viewing Parts 1 and 2 (adults only), and one after viewing. Surveys were designed to obtain baseline information and assess participants' awareness of and interest in the topics featured in the broadcast and the program's overall appeal. To evaluate the outreach campaign, GRG conducted a web-based survey with representatives from National Partner/Participant organizations, telephone interviews with Absolute Zero Experts, and follow-up telephone interviews with three respondents from the Partner/Participant survey. The survey and phone interviews focused on two broad areas of inquiry: (1) process of partnership in the Absolute Zero Campaign, and (2) outreach activities conducted, including publicity. In addition to process evaluation of the outreach campaign, GRG assessed the overall appeal and usefulness of the outreach materials: the educator guides, the PBS/NOVA website and Absolute Zero campaign website. The Partner/Participant survey and interviews with Participants, Partners, and Experts also included some questions regarding these areas. The science teachers whose students participated in the evaluation of the Absolute Zero broadcast provided feedback on the outreach guides themselves, including demonstration activities, and websites. KEY FINDINGS Absolute Zero Broadcast: The Absolute Zero broadcast achieved its aims of increasing awareness about low-temperature physics among both adults and students. Post-viewing, adult viewers were more interested in science and reported being likely to pay attention to Absolute Zero-related topics in the future. Post-viewing, students reported decreases in their intentions to engage in science-related activities as well as in their interest in learning more about the topics featured in the broadcast. Both adult and student viewers were quite positive about Absolute Zero. Adult viewers provided more positive ratings for Part 1 than for Part 2. Absolute Zero Outreach Materials and Campaign: Teachers as well as National Partners/Participants rated both outreach guides highly. Teachers reported that demonstration activities in the guides were easy to conduct, engaging for students, and a very useful way to supplement viewing the broadcast. They reported being quite likely to use the guides and to lead demonstration activities in the future. Outreach campaign participants were extremely positive about the work of Devillier Communications, Inc., the outreach campaign organizers. National Partners/Participants, and Experts wished that the broadcast and the outreach had been better coordinated in terms of their timelines, or that that there had been more formal events for outreach campaign members to participate in and/or promote at the time of the broadcast. National Partners, Participants and Experts were eager for high-quality outreach materials and were very positive about the ways that the materials facilitated their conducting outreach activities. They tended to be positive about their own activities yet unaware of whether other activities were being conducted by others involved with the campaign. The appendix of this report includes an interview protocol and survey forms.



Team Members

Irene Goodman, Evaluator, Goodman Research Group, Inc.
University of Oregon, Contributor
Laura Houseman, Evaluator, Goodman Research Group, Inc.
Marianne McPherson, Evaluator, Goodman Research Group, Inc.


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: AISL
Award Number: 0307939
Funding Amount: 1756698

Related URLs

Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold


Audience: Adults | Educators | Teachers | Evaluators | Middle School Children (11-13) | Museum | ISE Professionals | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: Education and learning science | Nature of science | Physics
Resource Type: Evaluation Reports | Interview Protocol | Research and Evaluation Instruments | Summative | Survey
Environment Type: Broadcast Media | Community Outreach Programs | Media and Technology | Public Programs | Websites | Mobile Apps | Online Media