Thesis Title

Science Museum Education: The Effects Of Assessments And Facility Educational Goals On Visitor Perceived-Learning

Date of Graduation

Summer 2001


Master of Science in Biology



Committee Chair

Georgianna Saunders

Subject Categories



Most science-oriented facilities include visitor education as a part of their mission statements. How can such institutions create displays that capture and hold a visitor's attention? How can an exhibit stimulate enough interest to make a visitor want to learn more? One very useful tool in determining the answers to these questions is museum assessment. Evaluating the educational effectiveness of museum displays can help directors and staff to focus on and improve in areas where they fall short of their educational goals. This study proposed two questions about eleven science and natural history facilities in Missouri: (a) Is there a relationship between an institution's educational goals and a visitor's perceived-learning? and, (b) Do assessments improve visitor perceived learning? A director interview was designed to learn about the facility's educational goals for its visitors and the number and quality of assessments a facility performs. A visitor questionnaire was designed to help determine why visitors came to the facility, whether they perceived learning while there, and whether they experienced anything in the exhibits that made them want to know more. Coding of interviews revealed that all facilities included education in their goals and all performed some assessments. Museums were ranked according to the number and quality of assesssments used. Chi-square analysis revealed a relationship between a facility's educational goals and visitor perceived-learning. Although visitors came primarily to enjoy a leisure family activity, most individuals reported that they learned something from their museum visit.


© Lianne Drysdale