Date of Award
Doctor of Education (EdD)
School of Teaching and Learning
Many challenges still exist in finding ways to measure the impact of informal learning environments. Much of the research that does exist is anecdotal in nature and examines engagement by intuition or informal feedback. The purpose of this concurrent mixed methods study was to better understand engagement and learning by converging both quantitative and qualitative data. In the study, an observation protocol was used to measure the engagement levels of children in a museum makerspace, and field notes were collected to explore the context in which this engagement takes place. The observation protocol used in this dissertation was the Visitor Based Learning Framework (VBLF) developed by Barriault and Pearson (2010) to generate insights into the impact of science center exhibits on visitor learning experiences. Participants of this study include child-parent/guardian pairs who visited the chosen museum setting during its makerspace hours. The study asks (1) at what levels, based on the VBLF, do children engage with the makerspace exhibit in the museum; (2) what relationships exist between engagement levels and age and gender; and (3) how do makerspace engagement levels compare to average engagement levels of traditional museum exhibits. In addition to the quantitative data collected from the observation protocol instrument, qualitative field notes helped to contextualize the quantitative data. The study showed that breakthrough engagement was where it was expected to be based on previous research, at 51%, though this was not statistically significant. However, qualitative data helped provide insight into factors that impacted breakthrough levels, such as parent dialog, participant interest in the activity, and facilitator knowledge. This demonstrates a similarity to traditional museum exhibits in that some makerspace activities will bring a majority of participants to the breakthrough level while others will not. The findings also show that while this instrument can determine the effectiveness of individual makerspace activities in allowing participants to reach breakthrough engagement levels, it cannot determine the effectiveness of the makerspace overall without consideration for the individual activities taking place and other critical factors that are not assessed by the instrument.
McCubbins, Sara, "Using A Visitor Based Framework To Observe Engagement In A Children's Museum Makerspace" (2016). Theses and Dissertations. 526.