Portal to the Public Summative Evaluation: Comparative Case Studies of Implementation at Five Sites

November 16th, 2011 | EVALUATION

Portal to the Public (PoP) is a proven, scalable guiding framework for Informal Science Educators (ISE) to engage scientists and public audiences in face-to-face interactions that promote appreciation and understanding of current scientific research and its application. The PoP approach has two important characteristics that set it apart for other efforts: PoP (1) focused exclusively on interactions between scientists and general public visitors; and (2) included professional development for the scientists interacting with the public. The three collaborating museums (Pacific Science Center, North Museum of Science and Natural History, and Explora) decided against a single method for replication and instead developed a guiding framework to support development of efforts that match the local context. The collaborators developed a Dissemination Manual for other ISE institutions interested in implementing the approach and a catalog of professional development activities that ISE institutions could use with scientists. Mid-way through the project, the PoP approach and materials were disseminated and tested at five user museums, beginning with a 3-day workshop. The purpose of the Summative Evaluation was to evaluate the PoP dissemination strategy, guiding framework, materials, and approaches in supporting effective implementation of the program at the five user museums. The five implementing museums were Museum of Life and Sciences, Adventure Science Center, Discovery Center of Springfield, Discovery Center Museum and Explorit Science Center. Following are the study's three overarching questions: (1) To what extent and in what ways were the PoP guiding framework, materials and approaches implemented and adopted at the five sites, (2) What factors affected implementation and adoption, and (3) The what extent and in what ways was the PoP approach effective in building partnerships with scientists and science-based organizations, providing professional development to scientists and communication current science to museum visitors. The study found that the guiding framework appeared adaptable and useful in a range of settings. PoP team members benefit from having experience in professional development, public programs and direct ownership for programs. Team members also benefit from attending an implementation workshop and having time to develop a conceptual plan Dissemination sites benefit from leveraging existing relationships with science institutions and scientists. The professional development elements catalog was easy to adapt and implement with scientists citing benefits from workshops using the activities. Prototyping prior to the scientists' first public events is beneficial as is scheduling the workshop close in time to the public event. Large and small sized events are both successful with those that incorporated materials-based activities being more robust. Recruitment of scientists is one the more challenging aspects of implementation for ISE educators. Scientists reported benefits from participation and reported an increase in knowledge and skills. Visitors responded very favorably to their interactions with the scientists, citing an enthusiasm for the type and recollection of one or more science concepts from their engagement. Three important areas for further study were identified: (1) Consideration needs to be given to the development and testing of the approach with other types of program formats beyond the materials-based approach (2) Additional testing is needed so the PoP approach can be integrated into existing programs in which scientists have participated previously and (3) Precise estimates for staff time for implementing the different versions of the PoP approach would provide important information for planning and decision making.



Team Members

Carey Tisdal, Evaluator, Tisdal Consulting
Pacific Science Center, Contributor


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: AISL
Award Number: 0639021
Funding Amount: 2020245

Related URLs

Portal to the Public


Audience: Educators | Teachers | Evaluators | General Public | Museum | ISE Professionals | Scientists
Discipline: Education and learning science | General STEM | Nature of science
Resource Type: Evaluation Reports | Summative
Environment Type: Museum and Science Center Programs | Professional Development | Conferences | Networks | Professional Development and Workshops | Public Programs