Summative Evaluation: Strange Matter

August 1st, 2004 | EVALUATION

The Materials Research Society (MRS) contracted Randi Korn & Associates, Inc. (RK&A) to evaluate a traveling exhibition developed by the Ontario Science Center, funded by the National Science Foundation. The evaluation documents the impact and effectiveness of the traveling exhibition and its associated Web site using timing and tracking observations, exit interviews, peer review, and telephone interviews with Web site users and non-users a few weeks after their visit to the exhibition. How did we approach this study? worked with MRS to identify its goals and objectives for the exhibition. Strange Matter was focused on visitors interacting with old materials and learning about new materials in an engaging interactive way, as well as understanding materials evolution and what materials scientists do. In response, RK&A conducted a summative evaluation to identify operational or conceptual shortcomings and measured how well visitors understood the key exhibition messages. For Strange Matter, MRS sought to understand what visitors did in the exhibition, as well as what they took away from their experiences; thus, RK&A conducted timing and tracking observations, in-depth exit interviews and in-depth telephone interviews. What did we learn? Strange Matter had mixed success in achieving MRS's stated outcomes. For example, the interactives successfully engaged visitors and introduced them to the materials' properties, and most interviewees had a richer sense of the diversity of materials, however, the videos and Demonstration did not hold most visitors' attention and, as such, some key exhibition messages were lost on visitors. Web site users found the Strange Matter companion site enjoyable and easy to use and praised the content for being interesting as well as accessible and appropriate for a range of audiences, but over one-half of Web site users encountered technical difficulties that negatively impacted their experience. What are the implications of the findings? The evaluation was 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. Our recommendations included not using the Theater as the primary method of orientation, and reworking the Introduction section into a more compelling exhibit experience to help visitors understand the exhibition's main messages and layout of the space. Additionally, peer reviewers praised the exhibition for focusing on a unique topic for the museum field; providing visitors with opportunities to see interesting, real materials; and engaging visitors in fun activities.



Team Members

Randi Korn & Associates, Inc., Evaluator, Randi Korn & Associates, Inc.
Materials Research Society, Contributor


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: ISE/AISL
Award Number: 0000586
Funding Amount: 1539254

Related URLs

Materials MicroWorld


Audience: Adults | Elementary School Children (6-10) | Evaluators | General Public | Middle School Children (11-13) | Museum | ISE Professionals | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: Chemistry | Education and learning science
Resource Type: Evaluation Reports | Summative
Environment Type: Exhibitions | Museum and Science Center Exhibits