12 September 2018

Visit by Eric Jensen: the proceeds

From April 26 to June 13, Dr. Eric Jensen, sociologist and researcher at the University of Warwick in England, was a guest researcher in science communication at the Freudenthal Institute. Eric specializes in evaluating science communication activities, especially science festivals and zoos, and in the use of social media in science communication. In this article we will share the proceeds of his visit, and we will ask him two questions.


Proceeds: evaluation expertise

During his welcome seminar, Eric immediately impressed everyone on the importance of good evaluation for science communication and education. This is often not yet or badly done, which Eric showed on the basis of worst cases, including some examples of research from peer-reviewed (!) journals. A few weeks later Eric gave a crash course on this subject: "Measuring the impact of informal science education activities". Important learning points from this workshop were:

• In order to carry out a proper evaluation, you need to know what the (SMART) goals of your activity are, otherwise you can not determine whether the activity has any effect

• Apart from a measurement afterwards, also always do a pre-test, preferably with the same people, so you can really learn about the impact of the intervention

• If your target group consists of children, always talk to the target group itself and not through the parents - better yet, let them draw an answer - only then can you be sure that you really get an answer from the target group itself

During his stay at the Freudenthal Institute, Eric also often used his evaluation expertise in personal consultations with colleagues or in teaching sessions about research methods for students. At the national student science communication conference, this year in Nijmegen, he held a plenary lecture for almost 100 students and teachers. This way, Eric's knowledge of evaluation has reached a fair share of science communication experts in the Netherlands.

Finally, Eric joins the editors for the new, international, English version of the Dutch foundational book on science communication. We are therefore looking forward to continue working closely with him, also in the near future, perhaps even many years to come.

A short interview with Eric

Eric also visited the Teaching & Learning Lab, and he tells us that the university where he works also has such a lab. He thinks it's important that this exists, because you normally can not really change the lay-out of a classroom, which means you'll often continue to teach in the same way. Spaces like the TLL are very useful to test new forms of education! For example, Eric himself would like to do research on hybrid learning: what possible forms of education exist between a flipped classroom and traditional teaching, to enable both online and class interaction and to transfer content? Eric would also like to evaluate the effectiveness of different teaching approaches, and in particular focus on the differences between teaching by (school) teachers and people in the informal learning circuit, such as museums.

In answer to the question why Science Education and Communication (SEC) should have a core position within the Faculty of Science of the University, he advocates:

"I think that a Science Faculty without SEC would be an unrealistic model, because science does not exist without a connection to society, and to involve society in science you need SEC. SEC skills are also very important for the scientists themselves, to help them communicate better about their research, but it also makes it easier to do research applications. I would therefore recommend that scientists-in-training also take at least one SEC course, which is already happening at a number of universities. "

Authors: Liesbeth de Bakker and Miranda Overbeek (Freudenthal Institute)