Using Iterative Design and Evaluation to Develop Playful Learning Experiences

January 1st, 2011 | RESEARCH

This paper explores the importance of iterative design and evaluation in developing playful learning experiences in museums. According to research, play has five defining aspects: it is structured by constraints, active without being stressful, focused on process not outcome, self-directed, and imaginative (Gray 2008). For each of these aspects, we demonstrate how an iterative process of development and formative testing improved several museum exhibits, engendering more playful learning experiences for visitors. We focus on the assessment element of the design-test process, offering in detail two methods for gaining user feedback from visitors: interviews and observations. Interviews capture visitors’ self-reports of their playful experiences, while observations record actions and conversations during play. Examples illustrate how these methods may yield information useful to development teams when revising educational experiences. The paper concludes by considering some of the challenges of enacting design-test processes and by offering potential solutions.


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Team Members

Josh Gutwill, Author, Exploratorium
Toni Dancstep, Author, Exploratorium
Nina Hido, Author, Exploratorium


Identifier Type: issn
Identifier: 546-2250

Publication: Children, Youth and Environments
Volume: 21
Number: 2
Page(s): 338

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Audience: Evaluators | Families | Museum | ISE Professionals | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: Education and learning science | General STEM | Mathematics
Resource Type: Peer-reviewed article | Research Products
Environment Type: Exhibitions | Museum and Science Center Exhibits