BISE Week: Amy Grack Nelson on Introducing the Building Informal Science Education Project

Hi! I’m Amy Grack Nelson, Evaluation & Research Manager at the Science Museum of Minnesota. I’m part of a really cool National Science Foundation-funded project called Building Informal Science Education, or as we like to refer to it – BISE. The BISE project is a collaboration between the University of Pittsburgh, the Science Museum of Minnesota, and the Visitor Studies Association. This week we’ll share what we learned from the project and what project resources are freely available for evaluators to use.

Within the field of evaluation, there are a limited number of places where evaluators can share their reports. One such resource is provides evaluators access to a rich collection of reports they can use to inform their practice and learn about a wide variety of designs, methods, and measures used in evaluating informal education projects. The BISE project team spent five years diving deep into 520 evaluation reports that were uploaded to through May 2013 in order to begin to understand what the field could learn from such a rich resource.

Rad Resources:

  • On the BISE project website, you’ll find lots of rad resources we developed. We have our BISE Coding Framework that was created to code the reports in the BISE project database. Coding categories and related codes were created to align with key features of evaluation reports and the coding needs of the BISE authors. You’ll find our BISE NVivo Database and related Excel file where we’ve coded all 520 reports based on our BISE Coding Framework. We have a tutorial on how to use the BISE NVivo Database and a worksheet to help you think about how you might use the resource for your own practice. You can also download a zip file of all of the reports to easily have them at your fingertips.
  • This project wouldn’t be possible without the amazing resource If you haven’t checked out this site before, you should! And if you conduct evaluations of informal learning experiences, consider sharing your report there.

Lessons Learned:

  • So what did we learn through the BISE project? That you can learn A LOT from others’ evaluation reports. In the coming week you’ll hear from four authors that used the BISE database to answer a question they had about evaluation in the informal learning field.
  • What lessons can you learn from our collection of evaluation reports? Explore the BISE Database for yourself and post comments on how you might use our resources.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Building Informal Science Education (BISE) project week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from members of the BISE project team. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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