Highlighting The Value Of Impact Evaluation: Enhancing Informal Science Learning And Public Engagement Theory And Practice

Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Resource Type:
Peer-reviewed article | Research | Research Products
Environment Type: 
Public Programs, Exhibitions, Informal/Formal Connections, K-12 Programs
Museum/ISE Professionals | Evaluators
General STEM
University of Warwick

King et al. [2015] argue that ‘emphasis on impact is obfuscating the valuable role of evaluation’ in informal science learning and public engagement (p. 1). The article touches on a number of important issues pertaining to the role of evaluation, informal learning, science communication and public engagement practice. In this critical response essay, I highlight the article’s tendency to construct a straw man version of ‘impact evaluation’ that is impossible to achieve, while exaggerating the value of simple forms of feedback-based evaluation exemplified in the article. I also identify a problematic tendency, evident in the article, to view the role of ‘impact evaluation’ in advocacy terms rather than as a means of improving practice. I go through the evaluation example presented in the article to highlight alternative, impact-oriented evaluation strategies, which would have addressed the targeted outcomes more appropriately than the methods used by King et al. [2015]. I conclude that impact evaluation can be much more widely deployed to deliver essential practical insights for informal learning and public engagement practitioners.

Publication Name: 
JCOM Journal of Science Communication

Team Members

Eric JensenAuthor

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