My name is Valerie Williams and I am Senior Program Evaluator at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) located in Boulder, CO. UCAR’s Center for Science Education is currently developing a new climate exhibit for the Mesa Laboratory Visitor Center and I am providing front-end evaluation support to help them test concepts and ideas about climate change with different audiences.
Teachers and their K-12 students are a primary audience for this exhibit; so much of my work involves conducting focus groups with teachers. It can be difficult to access teachers during the summer months when most schools are closed. Yet, this is often an opportune time for scheduling focus groups with teachers without having to squeeze time from their busy school day.
Lessons Learned: Professional development and skill-building workshops are a great way to identify local teachers that may be willing to participate in a focus group during the summer months. Boulder and the surrounding Front Range community are home to many universities and science research centers that host teacher workshops on climate-related topics during the summer. Working with local workshop coordinators can be an effective way of connecting to teachers.
Tokens of appreciation can go a long way toward expressing gratitude. Despite working within limited budgets, I always try to provide teachers with something they can use for their classrooms, such as posters or hands-on manipulatives to let them know I value their time.
Rad Resources for Front-End Evaluation: Most of my experience is in evaluating formal science education programs, so moving to informal science and museum evaluation has been a bit challenging. However, I’ve found many resources that have helped to smooth this transition.
- The evaluation website from the Center for the Advancement of Informal Science Education is an excellent resource for all things evaluation! The search and browse capabilities allow you to search along a number of different variables.
- For museum and science-center specific resources, the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) website has a number of resources on visitor studies.
- Finally, Chris Parsons’ article “Front-End Evaluation: How Do You Choose the Right Questions?” at helped me develop the right mix of questions for my focus group discussions on climate change.
Hot Tip: Advice for Evaluation 2014 in Denver. Not surprising, my hot tip is to take short trip to Boulder to de-compress from Evaluation 2014. Only 25 miles away from Denver, Boulder offers an amazing array of activities for connecting with nature. From the nature hikes that give you a breathtaking view of the Flatirons, to people watching and all around entertainment, a visit to Boulder is a great way to end an exciting and intellectually-stimulating conference!
We’re looking forward to October and the Evaluation 2014 annual conference all this week with our colleagues in the Local Arrangements Working Group (LAWG). 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 contribute to aea365? Review the contribution guidelines and send your draft post to firstname.lastname@example.org.