some sort of adult museum program (94 percent), but the majority of the programs (63 percent) were designed for families or children.
They also found that institutions reported offering more adult programs than ever before (Sachatello-Sawyer et al., 2002). However, interviews with 508 museum program participants, 75 instructors, and 143 museum planners indicated that many of the programs were struggling to connect with and attract an audience. Lectures were the most commonly cited program offered, and they were viewed as dull from the adult learner’s perspective. Adults wanted to learn more from museum programs and wanted exposure to unique people, places, and objects. They had positive impressions of programs that exposed them to new perspectives, attitudes, insights, and appreciations. It is also important to bear in mind a limitation to the findings: the programs reported attracting a highly homogenous population that was more white and more highly educated than the communities in which the institutions were located.
The study found that no single teaching or facilitation methodology worked best across situations. It was most important that the facilitator or instructor related to the needs and interests of the learners and helped them discuss, integrate, reflect on, and apply new insights. In fact, many participants indicated that it was their relationship with the facilitator that was the most important aspect of the program. From the data collected, the authors argue that science centers and museums have great potential to develop exhibits and programs to reach adult learners. This can be achieved for older adults—and in preparation for the movement of the baby boom age group into their retirement years—by incorporating what is known about this group into the instructional framework and addressing issues of diversity, including cultural issues and age-related disabilities.
A wide range of impacts were reported by the program participants. Sachatello and colleagues depict the effects as a pyramid, with the most common and basic effect—acquiring new knowledge—at the bottom and the less common life-changing experiences at the apex. Between these extremes are four levels of participant-reported impact: expanded or new relationships, increased appreciation, changed attitudes, and transformed perspectives. These findings suggest that adult programs can impact each of the strands of learning. More detailed analysis of these impacts is found in the next sections, which look at three categories of adult programs (those on which we found the most relevant literature): citizen science, health, and teacher professional development programs.
Citizen science and volunteer monitoring programs encourage networks of volunteers, including both adults and children, to engage in scientific practice (Strand 5) through the collection of data for scientific investigations,