Researching the Value of Educator Actions for Learning (REVEAL) was a three-year, National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded research study carried out by the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) between 2013 and 2017. In collaboration with TERC and Oregon State University, the team explored the role of museum educators in deepening and extending family engagement and learning at interactive math exhibits. REVEAL built on the NSF-funded Access Algebra project, which created a large traveling exhibit, Design Zone, that capitalizes on visitors’ interest in design, engineering, art, and music to create engaging and memorable learning experiences with math. REVEAL’s model was developed with educators and families interacting with Design Zone exhibit components at OMSI.
REVEAL had three primary goals:
- Iteratively develop and refine a theoretical model of how staff facilitation can deepen and extend family engagement and learning at interactive math exhibits;
- Rigorously test key components of this model, including the relationship between staff facilitation and the nature of family engagement and learning; and
- Develop and share evidence and research-based tools to support professional development efforts for informal STEM educators.
The REVEAL study consisted of two stages:
- A design-based research (DBR) study
A cross-disciplinary team of expert educators and researchers collected and analyzed data from hundreds of staff-family interactions over the course of six months. These efforts produced a model of staff-facilitation that supports family learning at exhibits, including recommendations for supporting mathematical reasoning and adapting to the needs and interests of different family groups.
- An experimental study comparing facilitated and unfacilitated family interactions at exhibits
The team trained four new educators and conducted a quasi-experimental study to test the facilitation model and assess the impact of staff facilitation on family learning across five outcome variables: engagement time, intergenerational communication, visitor satisfaction, mathematical reasoning, and math awareness. In total, 263 family groups at OMSI participated in the study under two conditions. In one, educators provided full facilitation based on the REVEAL training they had received, while in the other educators simply greeted families as they approached and allowed them to engage with the exhibits on their own. The study showed that staff facilitation had a positive impact on the amount of time visitors engaged with the exhibit, their mathematical reasoning and their overall satisfaction and a negative impact on intergenerational communication. More details are in this publication.
The REVEAL facilitation model and training tools were also tested at ScienceWorks, a small science center in Southern Oregon, in order to understand how the approach might transfer to other organizational contexts.
TERC is a nonprofit made up of teams of math and science education and research experts dedicated to innovation and creative problem solving. At the frontier of theory and practice, TERC’s work encompasses research, content and curriculum development, technology innovation, professional development, and program evaluation. TERC has a passion for social justice and strives to create level playing fields for all learners, reaching more than three million students every year. To learn more, visit www.terc.edu.
Founded in 1944, OMSI is one of the nation’s leading science museums with an international reputation in science education. OMSI’s mission is to inspire curiosity by creating engaging science learning experiences for students of all ages and backgrounds. OMSI’s goal is to foster experimentation and the exchange of ideas, and to help its community make smart, informed choices. To learn more, visit www.omsi.edu
About Oregon State
As a land grant institution committed to teaching, research, and outreach and engagement, Oregon State University promotes economic, social, cultural and environmental progress for the people of Oregon, the nation and the world. This mission is achieved by producing graduates competitive in the global economy, supporting a continuous search for new knowledge and solutions, and maintaining a rigorous focus on academic excellence. Visit www.oregonstate.edu.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. DRL-1321666. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.