The Matter of Origins: Evaluation Findings

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Resource Details
Publication Date: 
September 2011
Michigan State University
Number of Pages: 

The Idea Book for Liz Lerman and the Dance Exchange’s The Matter of Origins: Evaluation Findings presents research measures and findings by Michigan State University (MSU, 2011) from an evaluation of Dance Exchange’s Matter of Origins project.  Findings spark thinking about rigorous, creative ways to evaluate informal science education through the arts.

Evaluation focused on audiences’ experience of a performance and tea conversation.  The National Science Foundation (NSF) funded the evaluation. NSF’s main interests included understanding audience’s change in attitude, interest, knowledge, behavior, and skills related to science.  Dance Exchange was additionally interested in understanding connections between art and science, emotional engagement with the subject matter, the impact of the tea experience (see below), and impact of the performance on groups historically underrepresented in sciences.

In Act One of The Matter of Origins, audience members watch as science concepts are translated into images, music, and dance. Dancers portray ideas such as the complexity of measurement, the ways atomic particles interact, and the origins of the universe. In Act Two, audience members adjourn to a nearby room to enjoy tea, cake, and dialogue facilitated by local scientists and scholars. The tea experience includes dance interruptions and additional science content, to stimulate reflection about the nature of science, limits of measurement, and meaning of movements, both big and small.

The research findings overwhelmingly support the positive impact the performance had on audience understanding of and participation with science. The Idea Book includes sample survey instruments with different question formats including Likert scales, “emotion clouds,” and lively graphic presentations of results. It also includes Dialogue and Provocateur Resources and lessons learned about the effectiveness of the tea conversations.

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