Formative Evaluation: Freedom Express Mobile Museum

January 16th, 2015 | EVALUATION

The Robert R. McCormick Foundation contracted RK&A to conduct a formative evaluation of the Freedom Express mobile museum program to assess the degree to which the program supports students toward the achievement of stated civic engagement-related outcomes. How did we approach this study? The evaluation was designed to explore the extent to which students demonstrate desired outcomes after experiencing the Freedom Express program and to identify the extent to which teachers value and recognize the benefits of the program. To capture diverse perspectives and produce reliable data, RK&A utilized a mixed-methods approach that combined both quantitative and qualitative methods—open-ended interviews with student and teacher, program observations, and a teacher questionnaire. RK&A secured approval to conduct research with human subjects from an independent IRB (Institutional Review Board) and the Chicago Public Schools. Per IRB, consent/assent was secured from all study participants, including parents of student participants. In all, RK&A sampled students from four schools who visited the program. What did we learn? Most students had positive experiences on Freedom Express and personally connected to the individuals or scenarios in the exhibits, generally remaining engaged with the exhibits for the duration of the visit. Nevertheless results show that students have a narrow and vague understanding that First Amendment rights are part of everyday life, even though each exhibit focuses on at least one aspect of the First Amendment. That being said, the visit provides students and teachers with a chance to learn about history outside of a traditional classroom setting and focus on current events and controversial issues. Results also show that the small size of the mobile museum had a negative effect on the experience. Students and teachers said the small size of the bus led to crowding, which made it difficult for students to explore the exhibits. What are the implications of the findings? Visiting the Freedom Express encourages students to explore the First Amendment in a dynamic way; however, most students do not retain an in-depth understanding of the limitations of First Amendment rights or the debate and discussion that ensues about these rights. Given how difficult it is for a short, single-visit school field trip to affect measurable changes on students, students’ lack of deep understanding is not surprising. Overall, students and teachers enjoy and value the opportunity for hands-on learning in an informal environment and the focus on current, youth-centered stories. Additionally, teachers appreciate the ways in which Freedom Express exhibits support their curriculum. As the McCormick Foundation partners with new educational outreach providers, it should continue to focus on youth-centered stories while highlighting the ways in which all citizens can use their First Amendment rights.



Team Members

Randi Korn & Associates, Inc., Contributor
Randi Korn, Evaluator, Randi Korn & Associates, Inc.


Audience: Educators | Teachers | Middle School Children (11-13) | Museum | ISE Professionals | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: History | policy | law
Resource Type: Evaluation Reports | Formative
Environment Type: Exhibitions | K-12 Programs