Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Designs in Visitor Studies: A Critical Reflection on Three Projects

Date: 
Friday, April 26, 2019
Resource Type:
Peer-reviewed article | Research Products
Environment Type: 
Exhibitions, Museum and Science Center Exhibits
Audience: 
Families | Museum/ISE Professionals | Evaluators | Learning Researchers
Discipline: 
Education and learning science | Mathematics
Organization:
Exploratorium, Museum of Science, Boston, Laurence Hall of Science, TERC
Description: 

Identifying causal relationships is an important aspect of research and evaluation in visitor studies, such as making claims about the learning outcomes of a program or exhibit. Experimental and quasi-experimental approaches are powerful tools for addressing these causal questions. However, these designs are arguably underutilized in visitor studies. In this article, we offer examples of the use of experimental and quasi-experimental designs in science museums to aide investigators interested in expanding their methods toolkit and increasing their ability to make strong causal claims about programmatic experiences or relationships among variables. Using three designs from recent research (fully randomized experiment, post-test only quasi- experimental design with comparison condition, and post-test with independent pre-test design), we discuss challenges and trade-offs related to feasibility, participant experience, alignment with research questions, and internal and external validity. We end the article with broader reflections on the role of experimental and quasi-experimental designs in visitor studies.

Funder(s): 
NSF
Funding Program: 
AISL
Award Number: 
1321666
Funder(s): 
NSF
Award Number: 
0411826
Funder(s): 
IMLS
Award Number: 
MG-10-13-0021-13
Citation
DOI:
10.1080/10645578.2019.1605235
Publication Name: 
Visitor Studies
Volume: 
22
Number: 
1
Page Number: 
43-66

Team Members

Josh GutwillAuthor
Ryan AusterAuthor
Mac CannadyAuthor

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