and language. However, mapping the relationship between language and thought is complex and not fully developed.
Several types of learning outcomes assessments used in museums and other designed spaces engage participants in activities that require them to demonstrate what they learned by producing a representation or artifact. Concept maps are often used to characterize an individual’s knowledge structure before and after a learning experience. They are particularly well suited to informal environments in that they allow for personalization of both prior knowledge and knowledge-building during the activity and are less threatening than other cognitive assessments. However, they require a longer time commitment than a traditional exit interview, are time-consuming to code, are difficult to administer and standardize, and may show a bias unless a control group has been used (see Appendix B). While a variety of concept mapping strategies have been used in these settings (Anderson, Lucas, Ginns, and Dierking, 2000; Gallenstein, 2005; Van Luven and Miller, 1993), perhaps the most commonly used in museum exhibitions is Personal Meaning Mapping (Falk, Moussouri, and Coulson, 1998), in which the dimensions of knowledge assessed are extent, breadth, depth, and mastery. Personal Meaning Mapping is typically presented to learners in paper format, although Thompson and Bonney (2007) created an online version to assess the impact of a citizen science project.
Drawing tasks can be an important way to broaden research participants’ modes of communication and may enable some to articulate ideas and observations that they could not in spoken or written language. Drawings can capture visitors’ memories of their experience (e.g., map study), or show their understanding of a science concept (Guichard, 1995). Typically, a drawing is annotated or discussed so that the meaning of the various parts is clear to the researcher. Moussouri (1997) has shown how drawings can be used to capture different stages of children’s reasoning. Jackson and Leahy (2005) have similarly used drawing and creative writing tasks to study how a museum theater experience may influence children’s learning.
Sorting tasks, which typically involve cards, photos, or other objects, are yet another means through which participants can demonstrate their conceptual learning after visiting a museum, zoo, or other designed setting. To be compelling proof of learning, this method requires some kind of control group and preferably also a pretest. Sorting tasks have the advantage that they do not publicly reveal that a given answer is scientifically incorrect and can usually be done with the same participants more than once.
E-mail or phone interviews, often done weeks, months, or even years after a visit or program, are particularly important in informal learning environments because they are often the only way to test two key assumptions: (1) that the experiences are highly memorable and (2) that learners integrate the experiences into the rest of their lives and build on them over time. Typical follow-up questions probe these two aspects of the learning by asking