Bilingual Exhibit Research Initiative Report: Institutional and Intergenerational Experiences with Bilingual Exhibitions

September 30th, 2013 | RESEARCH

This report addresses findings from the Bilingual Exhibit Research Initiative (BERI), a National Science Foundation-­‐funded project (NSF DRL#1265662) through the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program. This Pathways (planning grant) project was a 3-­‐year project designed to better understand current practices in bilingual exhibitions and Spanish-­‐speaking visitors’ uses and perceptions of bilingual exhibitions. Responding to a lack of extensive evaluation or audience research in informal science education (ISE) bilingual interpretation, the Bilingual Exhibit Research Initiative begins to fill a gap in our collective knowledge. While a handful of evaluation studies with bilingual and Spanish-­‐speaking audiences focused on single institutions or exhibitions, BERI explored current practices and visitor engagements across multiple institutions, revealing patterns that exist in a variety of ISE contexts. The BERI team initiated an archive of bilingual exhibition case studies on, and invited ISE practitioners to contribute additional case studies to support reflective practice and professional dialogue. The BERI project had a number of research questions that guided the study: 1. What are current practices in bilingual interpretation in informal science education, and what do practitioners know about how these approaches work for bilingual audiences? 2. To what extent do individuals and groups physically engage with the bilingual exhibits? (characterizing both quality and quantity of engagement)? Which bilingual resources do they use, and how do they use them? 3. To what extent do visitors notice and understand the STEM-­‐related content in the exhibits? What role, if any, do the bilingual materials available influence what visitors notice and understand? 4. To what extent do visitors feel comfortable with the content, presentation of information, and overall experience with the exhibits? Do the bilingual materials affect their level of comfort? 5. How and where do members of the group interact with each other as they use the exhibit resources? Are these interactions in Spanish, English, or some combination? 6. To what extent do visitors make personal and/or cultural connections to the exhibition and its content? What role, if any, do the bilingual materials affect perceptions of relevance? In order to answer the above research questions, the BERI team conducted 1) a Focused Literature Review, 2) ISE Staff Interviews, and 3) Bilingual Visitor Research. The Focused Literature Review was conducted in order to ground our approach in the literature to the two research methods, and to inform thinking about the working model for the research. The ISE Staff Interviews included telephone interviews paired with a web survey with 32 staff from 22 different ISE institutions that have bilingual exhibits at their institutions. Lastly, the Bilingual Visitor Research component included collecting data from 32 intergenerational Spanish-­‐ speaking groups at four different ISE institutions: methods included observations of the groups in a fully bilingual exhibition, followed by a group interview about the experience. Groups were recruited ahead of time, and had to meet the following criteria: the primary language spoken at home was Spanish or both Spanish and English equally (although we expected individuals within a group might have differing language proficiencies), they were intergenerational groups with at least one child between the ages of 7 and 12, and had visited at least 2 museums in the past 2 years



Team Members

San Diego Society of Natural History, Contributor
Steven Yalowitz, Principal Investigator, Audience Viewpoints Consulting
Cecilia Garibay, Co-Principal Investigator, Garibay Group
Nan Renner, Co-Principal Investigator, San Diego Society of Natural History
Carlos Plaza, Co-Principal Investigator, Babel No More


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Amount: 224385

Related URLs

Bilingual Exhibits Research Initiative (BERI)


Access and Inclusion: English Language Learners | Ethnic | Racial | Hispanic | Latinx Communities
Audience: Evaluators | Museum | ISE Professionals
Discipline: Education and learning science | Literacy | Mathematics | Space science
Resource Type: Literature Review | Reference Materials | Report | Research Products
Environment Type: Exhibitions | Museum and Science Center Exhibits

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This material is supported by National Science Foundation award DRL-2229061, with previous support under DRL-1612739, DRL-1842633, DRL-1212803, and DRL-0638981. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations contained within are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.

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