Measuring the long-term effects of informal science education experiences: challenges and potential solutions

Friday, May 7, 2021
Resource Type:
Peer-reviewed article | Research Products
Environment Type: 
Media and Technology, Public Programs, Exhibitions, Informal/Formal Connections
Administration/Leadership/Policymakers | General Public | Museum/ISE Professionals | Evaluators | Learning Researchers
Education and learning science | General STEM
Oregon State University, Institute for Learning Innovation, Museum of Science and Industry, University of Virginia

Despite the fact that most science learning takes place outside of school, little is known about how engagement in informal science learning (ISL) experiences affects learners’ knowledge, skill development, interest, or identities over long periods of time. Although substantial ISL research has documented short-term outcomes such as the learning that takes place  during a science center visit, research suggests that the genuine benefits of informal experiences are long-term transformations in learners as they pursue a “cascade” of experiences subsequent to the initial educational  event. However, a number of major methodological challenges have limited longitudinal research projects investigating the long-term effects of ISL experiences. In this paper we identify and address four key issues surrounding the critical but challenging area of how to study and measure the long-term effects or impacts of ISL experiences: attribution, attrition, data collection, and analytic approaches. Our objective is to provide guidance to ISL researchers wishing to engage in long-term  investigations of learner outcomes and to begin a dialogue about how best to address the numerous challenges involved in this work.

Publication Name: 
Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Science Education Research

Team Members

Nancy StausAuthor
John H FalkAuthor
Aaron PriceAuthor
Robert TaiRobert TaiAuthor

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