Resources for Evaluating School Group Experiences

As a follow-up to the recent webinar I developed for ASTC and VSA (“Back to School: Techniques and Tips for Evaluating School Group Experiences”)  I’ve compiled the following list of digital resources and references.

General Articles about Museum-Based Education: 

• Building the Future of Education: Museums and the Learning Ecosystem  (Note: this publication includes a chapter called “Setting the Stage” by Elizabeth Merritt from the Center for the Future of Museums, which includes the same statistics that I referenced in my presentation (as shown below).


Evaluation Resources: General

• Better Evaluation (WEBSITE):

• Evaluation Toolbox (WEBSITE):

• Pell Institute’s Evaluation Toolkit (WEBSITE):

• User-Friendly Handbook for Program Evaluation (2002) NSF (PDF):

• Hartford Foundation: Evaluation Toolkit (for summer program evaluation):

• There are also lots of great resources, including links to reports that sometimes include instruments, at

• Studying Your Visitors, Where to Begin? by Randi Korn (1994):

Evaluation Resources: Surveys

• Social Research Methods Knowledgebase (Survey Design)  (WEBSITE)

• Survey Fundamentals: A Guide to Designing and Implementing Surveys (HANDBOOK)

Evaluation Resources: Interviews

• Conducting Interviews for Museum Program Evaluations – Kirsten Ellenbogen and Amy Grack Nelson:

• Wilder Research – “Conducting Interviews (PDF):,%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf

• Conducting In-Depth Interviews (PDF):

Evaluation Resources: Analyzing Qualitative Data

• Renner, Marcus. “Analyzing Qualitative Data.”

• Tips for Analyzing Qualitative Data:

Evaluation Resources: Presenting Data and Findings

• AEA’s “Potent Presentations” Initiative:

• Stephanie Evergreen’s Intentional Reporting & Data Visualization Blog:

Evaluation Resources: Utilization-Focused Evaluation

• Utilization Focused Evaluation, A Primer for Evaluators:

• Utilization Focused Evaluation Checklist, M.Q. Patton (2002):

ASTC Resources:

Gone the Way of the Dodo: The Decrease in Enriching Field Trips (WEBINAR)

With the rise of standardized testing in schools and the emphasis placed on improved test scores, the time and money for enrichment activities, such as field trips to museums, plummet. Are educational field trips being replaced with “reward” field trips? Both student and teachers report that field trips should be educational and fun, but what are they really getting out of these visits? In this webinar, three researchers shared their findings on the value of field trips for student success and inter-personal growth, and teachers’ needs to ensure a successful visit to the museum. Presenters: Brian Kisida, researcher at the University of Arkansas and co-author of “The Educational Value of Field Trips,”  Mary Ann Wojton, COSI, Columbus Lifelong Learning Group, and Al Onkka, Science Museum of Minnesota, Researcher and Evaluator

The Field Trip Challenge: Finding Common Ground (ARTICLE)

By Dennis Schatz – These are the types of comments I hear from teachers, parents, and science center professionals whenever we talk about why, in this world of “No Child Left Behind,” it can be so difficult to get school groups to visit science centers. At Pacific Science Center (PSC), as at many other U.S. institutions, school group attendance has plateaued since the beginning of the new millennium.

As a science center professional with 30+ years working in the education arena, I have tried to delve deeper into the underlying causes for these comments. As I considered the sometimes conflicting, sometimes complementary needs, goals, and constraints of schools and science centers, I found myself visualizing a system (see diagram below) in which these factors might overlap to suggest a new approach to the classic “field trip.”


Front-end, formative, and summative studies in museums are tools for improving design of exhibits and programs. Front-end studies, which focus on visitors’ interests and understandings, can be seen as the beginning of a continuing conversation among museum staff and advisors, visitors, and the subject matter. During design and prototyping, formative evaluation helps us to work toward clarity, comprehension, accessibility, and ease of use. When the exhibit or program is complete, summative evaluation can document its value to supporters and the community, and contribute to future planning.

ASTC Publications: Available at

Questioning Assumptions: An Introduction to Front-End Studies in Museums
Lynn D. Dierking and Wendy Pollock
ASTC, 1998
A must-read for museum professionals engaged in exhibition development, program planning, marketing campaigns, and the development of new facilities. “Front-end studies”—or research done at the onset of the planning process—can help museums to build bridges between themselves and visitors. This volume, based upon dozens of studies in the field, guides the reader through the planning process. 131 pp.
ASTC members: $22
Nonmembers: $25

Try It! Improving Exhibits Through Formative Evaluation
Samuel Taylor, editor
New York Hall of Science, 1992
This book demystifies the formative evaluation process. Step-by-step procedures are provided, along with case studies from around the United States. The book contains contributions from Minda Borun, Margaret Chambers, Lisa Detloff, Alan Friedman, Patricia McNamara, Chandler Screven, Beverly Serrell, Cary Sneider, David Taylor, and Samuel Taylor. 118 pp.
ASTC members: $25
Nonmembers: $30

Visitor Voices In Museum Exhibitions
Kathleen McLean and Wendy Pollock, editors
ASTC 2007
This book is a timely survey of ways museums are incorporating user-contributed content in exhibitions and other media. Overview articles by the editors plus 29 other articles describe a variety of experiments dating from the 1970s to the present—from comment books to sticky notes, video kiosks to blogs. For professional and student alike, Visitor Voices offers inspiration, food for thought, and practical advice. 164 pp, illustrated.
ASTC members: $20
Nonmembers: $23


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