1 Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade do Porto (PORTUGAL)
2 Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto (PORTUGAL)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2019 Proceedings
Publication year: 2019
Pages: 4690-4699
ISBN: 978-84-09-14755-7
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2019.1155
Conference name: 12th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 11-13 November, 2019
Location: Seville, Spain
In formal education, evaluation is often an intrinsic part of learning. However, in non-formal contexts, such as science centers and museums, evaluation methods are usually invasive and conflicting with visitors’ agendas. The I SEA project - a science communication project - intends to develop an immersive virtual reality experience (VRE – I SEA), combining science communication and its evaluation in the same experience, becomes a meaningful procedure for both visitors and institutions. The VRE – I SEA will be hosted at two Portuguese science centers (Planetarium and Expolab). Fieldwork on these centers was developed with the following goals: characterizing each center (i.e., mission, public, models of science communication), perceiving expectations and conditions for integrating the VRE – I SEA, acknowledging experience with virtual reality (VR), and learning their vision about communicating deep seas ecosystems contents. An interview script was developed to cover these themes. Two researchers visited both centers, interviewing a total of 10 intervenients (5 per center), among stakeholders, staff members, and visitors. Data were analyzed with NVivo and cross-compared to participant observation, field notes, and audiovisual records. Results point out different visions concerning the integration of the VRE – I SEA. In the Planetarium, a science center focused on space - astronomy contents, in Porto, most participants identified common characteristics in space and deep seas ecosystems exploration and between the immersiveness of the Planetarium’s sessions and the technology to be used in the VRE – I SEA. In Expolab, an Azorean science and technology center, the location was one of the main themes referred by the interviewed when discussing deep-sea ecosystems. In addition, VR is familiar to this center, as Expolab provides VR applications to several science subjects. As for science communication, the analysis of the interviews and the activities available at the time of the visits show a prevalence of a deficit and a contextual model. In fact, personnel from both centers highlight the public’s search for contact with the experts and the development of the public’s scientific literacy as key points in their mission. Inferring from the viewpoints of the interviewees, what distinguishes science centers from formal education is exactly the absence of systematic evaluation. In addition, science evaluation is sometimes confounded as feedback, which neither of the centers seems to have implemented in a systematic manner. However, there are several attempts for public dialogue (through interactions at the end of science sessions) and obtaining of informal feedback. In sum, the centers’ flexibility in integrating and justifying a new theme of deep-sea ecosystems is remarkable, however, considering that one of the I SEA project’s purpose is to incorporate a method for science communication evaluation in non-formal contexts, these results lead us to challenge the current communication models in both centers. The I SEA project leads us to rethink the purpose of science communication evaluation, through the development of non-invasive methods, with benefits for both science centers and visitors. Also, the integration of science communication evaluation into the science communication channels may present an essential component towards a more dialogical communication model for science centers, replicable in other non-formal contexts such as museums.
Science communication, non formal education, science centers, virtual reality, evaluation.