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Visitor Research & Evaluation

holding a research clipboard in front of museum visitors engaged in an exhibit
Visitor Research & Evaluation

The Exploratorium pioneers new learning environments, programs, exhibits, and other tools that help people nurture their curiosity. The Exploratorium believes that research and evaluation are critical steps in understanding the nature of learning and in designing for learning innovation.

The Exploratorium's Visitor Research & Evaluation Department (VRE) conducts research on learning in informal environments, largely in the public space of our museum. Our research studies address issues that have applicability beyond a particular exhibit or set of exhibits. Often, they explore how designs affect learning. The aspects of learning we've explored include:

  • Interest
  • Excitement
  • Self-efficacy
  • Social engagement
  • Scientific thinking and skill-building

Some examples of designs we've studied include:

  • Label wording and layout
  • Physical exhibit affordances
  • Interplay of materials and facilitation
  • Characteristics of inquiry programs

In addition, VRE conducts evaluation studies to inform and improve the exhibits and programs developed at the Exploratorium. Evaluation studies at the Exploratorium fall into three categories: front-end, formative, and summative according to when the study is performed and what types of questions the study addresses. Our main focus is on front-end and formative evaluation, which enables us to consider how our work can be improved.

VRE has conducted over 300 evaluations and more than 30 research studies. All of our reports are available for download. You can also explore the projects we've worked on.

Visitor Research & Evaluation