Adult Child Interaction Inventory
The Adult Child Interaction Inventory (ACII) was designed in partnership with the Boston Children’ Museum. It was the result of a three-year NSF funded research study to answer the following questions:
- What verbal and non-verbal interactions are families using to support preschool children’s STEM learning?
- What are the specific types of design strategies that support effective verbal and non-verbal interactions that can result in stronger STEM learning for preschool children?
The ACII is an observation/interview instrument that can be used for evaluation or development of exhibits when the role of the adult in the child’s experience is key to the exhibit project. Through observation and an interview with the caregiver, the researcher can identity the variety of roles the adult played in the child’s experience. The researcher can also identify what key design elements of the exhibit support adult-child interaction.
While the ACII was originally developed for the purposes of exhibit evaluation and development, it has also been useful as a training tool for museum staff and preschool teachers so they can better understand how families interact around informal science experiences.
Downloadable Project Resources:
In March 2010, The Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum in Chicago, Illinois opened an 8,000 square foot immersive exhibit experience called Planet Explorers. The target audience for this exhibit is children ages 3-8 and their caregivers. Each child can become a space explorer and embark on an awe-inspiring journey through the Universe to the mysterious Planet X. Activities engage all of the senses as future space explorers and their caregivers climb, crawl, fly, land and discover their way through the exhibition. This exhibit invites families into a story of exploration with three main parts: Exploring Earth, Exploring Space and Exploring Planet X.
The primary research question for this study was:
What can we learn about how families explore and interact with The Planet Explorers environment that can help Adler staff make improvements that will enhance the visitor experience?
Because the Planet Explorers exhibition was designed for young children, Dr. Beaumont chose to include children as active participants in the research. Her methods were inspired by the “mosaic approach” developed by Alison Clark and Peter Moss (Clark, 2004). The “mosaic approach” project showed that children from a very young age were able to take on the roles of researcher and informant about their own lives and thoughts. When participation in the research activity is presented clearly to the children as a vital element to understanding the exhibition, children will rise to the challenge. They are anxious to be taken seriously as advocates of their own lives and relish the opportunity to tell about their experiences when they are listened to with respect and seriousness. This method of role-playing as described below can engage children in detailing the meanings they attach to their experiences.
For the Planet Explorers evaluation children in the target age range (3-8) were sampled for age, gender, and racial diversity. The first step was to look for families with children in the target age range. Once the child and their caregiver were nearing the end of their exploration of the exhibition, Dr. Beaumont approached the adult caregiver and explained the study and asked for their consent to participate and for their child to be videotaped. She then explained the study very simply to the child and asked for their verbal assent. If willing, the child put on one of the “oxygen backpacks” (an exhibition prop) that was fitted with a wireless microphone. The child was asked to wear the backpack during the entire tour, and to act in the role of an astronaut (to preserve their anonymity, children were only identified by their ‘astronaut names’ in the report). Next Dr. Beaumont asked the child to take her through the exhibition as if she or he was a tour guide giving the researcher a first look at the exhibition. She used prompts such as, “Where did you go first?” “What did you do here?” “Can you show me what you did?” “What else should I make sure to see during my visit?” A videographer accompanied Dr. Beaumont and the child through the exhibition. Along the way the child described the exhibition and possible experiences one could have. Sometimes when the child was moving too quickly or not talking very much Dr. Beaumont would ask the caregiver to prompt the child. This “mosaic method” revealed children’s constructed knowledge about the exhibition, their preferences, and the areas that most intrigued them. In order to thank the families for letting their child participate, once all the data was analyzed an edited copy of their child’s session was mailed to them on DVD.
Summative Project Evaluation Report
The Living Laboratory is a unique, educational on-site research program that was developed at the Museum of Science, Boston. In the Living Lab model, scientist collaborators (in disciplines including developmental psychology and related fields) recruit participants and conduct their studies at local museums. Collaborating researchers work with informal science educators to communicate the questions and methods of their work to parents and other caregivers through participation in on-going studies, one-on few conversations with scientists, and hands-on activities based on completed research projects.
In 2011 the project scaled up to 3 additional museums and university partners: Maryland Science Center with Johns Hopkins University, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry with Lewis & Clark College and the Madison Children’s Museum with the University of Wisconsin Madison. The goal of the national initiative, led by the Museum of Science Boston and Harvard University, is to assist researchers and informal science educators in collaboration efforts that foster public awareness, engagement and understanding of the scientific study of children’s learning and development. Through participation in active research studies, families can learn about current topics and methods in child development research and by hosting on-site research activities, museums can gain access to current research that can inform their daily work.
The multi year evaluation is looking first at the Mutual Professional Development between researchers and museum educators including growth in their self-efficacy as well as the On-Site Research. Subsequently the study will focus on the development of Research Toys – activities to be used in the museum context, developed from actual research studies, and the outcomes for the adult visitors.
The main research questions for this study are:
What sticks and how? Does it "stick"? Who does it "stick" for? What does it mean to "stick"?
How do factors vary by region and lead institution(s)?
Across institutions (museum/department, lab/academic department) where has this change been enacted? Across both types of institutions, or one more than the other?
The evaluation is largely informed by the theoretical framework of Coburn’s theory of Scaling Up (2003), which focuses on four main aspects of a scaled up project:
The study design is a multi layered case study. A case study design will be able to reveal a lot about the processes and outcomes at each of the sites, and the ways in which these interrelate.