Front-end Evaluation: Speed

May 17th, 2013 | EVALUATION

Roto, an exhibition design and production firm, contracted Randi Korn & Associates, Inc. (RK&A) to conduct a front-end evaluation of Speed, an exhibition being developed for The Science Museum of Virginia (SMV) in Richmond, Virginia. RK&A explored visitors’ thoughts, perceptions, and understandings of exhibition concepts related to speed, defined as change over time. How did we approach this study? RK&A worked closely with Roto to identify the goals and objectives for the Speed exhibition. Findings from the front-end evaluation were designed to help Roto and SMV find common ground between visitors’ opinions and understandings and the proposed exhibition framework and concepts, including how the exhibition might help visitors connect the concept of speed to the concept of change. RK&A utilized in-depth interviews as well as a card sort activity to explore visitors’ understanding of the concepts. What did we learn? Two trends emerged in the course of the research. It is not uncommon for people to remain fixed in their understanding of familiar concepts even when presented with new information. Thus, it is not surprising that interviewees stayed fixed in their perception of speed as fast even when presented with additional information about the exhibit concepts and a statement relating speed to change over time. These findings have implications for exhibition design if a primary goal is to bring visitors to new understandings about speed (i.e., help visitors have “ah-ha” moments about speed). Visitors are not only entering the experience without the concept of “change over time” top of mind; they also are entering the experience without “relatively slow moving things” top of mind. Thus, connections to speed throughout the exhibition would need to be universal and explicit, especially for those exhibit concepts that interviewees perceive as slow and about change. What are the implications of the findings? The evaluations are a keen reminder that exhibition introductions are imperative. They can set the conceptual stage for visitors, and if they are well-conceived and executed, they can also convey overarching concepts, connect subthemes, and present the intent of the exhibition. Acknowledging visitors’ perceptions of speed as fast and addressing visitors’ curiosities about speed creates a comfortable and permissive exhibition atmosphere where visitors are open to new learning. While understanding speed as a measure of the rate of change over time was not top of mind, visitors’ natural interests about speed could serve as a bridge to this concept.



Team Members

Randi Korn & Associates, Inc., Contributor
Randi Korn, Evaluator, Randi Korn & Associates, Inc.
Emily Skidmore, Evaluator, Randi Korn & Associates, Inc.
Roslyn Esperon, Evaluator, Randi Korn & Associates, Inc.



Audience: Adults | Elementary School Children (6-10) | Evaluators | Families | General Public | Middle School Children (11-13) | Seniors | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: Computing and information science | Education and learning science | Engineering | General STEM | Geoscience and geography | Health and medicine | Life science | Nature of science | Physics | Space science | Technology
Resource Type: Evaluation Reports | Front-End
Environment Type: Exhibitions | Museum and Science Center Exhibits