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Communicating Chemistry: A Framework for Sharing Science: A Practical Evidence-Based Guide (2016)

Chapter: WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO EVALUATE? AND WHY DO IT?

« Previous: THE FRAMEWORK FOR EFFECTIVE CHEMISTRY COMMUNICATION
Suggested Citation:"WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO EVALUATE? AND WHY DO IT?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Communicating Chemistry: A Framework for Sharing Science: A Practical Evidence-Based Guide. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23444.
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WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO EVALUATE?
AND WHY DO IT?

A fundamental part of the framework is the need to use evaluation as a tool to make communication activities more effective at meeting their intended goals. Too often, scientists doing informal communication do not consider evaluation. Evaluation is the only way to assess whether goals and outcomes have been met. Furthermore, determining what will be evaluated at the outset of communication planning will aid in the development of a communications activity that is more likely to meet the intended goals and outcomes. The evaluation process entails learning about intended participants, gathering advanced feedback about communication design, and figuring out how to determine whether the goals and outcomes have been met.

Evaluation consists of three stages, which occur during the design, implementation, or assessment of a communication activity:

  1. Front-end evaluation: Obtain information about participants to help develop or modify goals and outcomes (Element 1)
  2. Formative evaluation: Obtain participant responses before or during
Suggested Citation:"WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO EVALUATE? AND WHY DO IT?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Communicating Chemistry: A Framework for Sharing Science: A Practical Evidence-Based Guide. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23444.
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  1. an activity to assess its effectiveness before it has been fully carried out (Elements 3 and 4)

  2. Summative evaluation: Determine if the communication activity achieved its intended goals and outcomes (Element 5)

Evaluation does not have to be complicated or costly. It has value in its simplest form and should be scaled to the scope of the communications activity. For larger-scale activities it may be important to collaborate with a third-party expert evaluator.

USING THE FRAMEWORK

Chemists might speak at a local Rotary Club meeting or host a booth at a science festival or perhaps work with a science museum to develop a series of Saturday morning science activities for kids. Other communication activities may include giving public lectures; being interviewed on a radio program; participating in hands-on learning activities in museums; writing books, articles, blogs, and Web-based materials; and using online engagement platforms to improve public access to and understanding of chemistry. Current modes of digital communication on the Internet, such as video sharing (e.g., YouTube), social networking (e.g., Facebook), and microblogging (e.g., Twitter), present new opportunities for chemists to communicate with members of the public.

Guidance on how to use each element of the framework to plan communication events is provided. An example of a chemist making a presentation at a community center is used throughout to illustrate how the framework can be used.

Suggested Citation:"WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO EVALUATE? AND WHY DO IT?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Communicating Chemistry: A Framework for Sharing Science: A Practical Evidence-Based Guide. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23444.
×
Page 6
Suggested Citation:"WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO EVALUATE? AND WHY DO IT?." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Communicating Chemistry: A Framework for Sharing Science: A Practical Evidence-Based Guide. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23444.
×
Page 7
Next: ELEMENT 1: Set communication goals and outcomes appropriate to the target participants. »
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A growing body of evidence indicates that, increasingly, the public is engaging with science in a wide range of informal environments, which can be any setting outside of school such as community-based programs, festivals, libraries, or home. Yet undergraduate and graduate schools often don’t prepare scientists for public communication.

This practical guide is intended for any chemist – that is, any professional who works in chemistry-related activities, whether research, manufacturing or policy – who wishes to improve their informal communications with the public. At the heart of this guide is a framework, which was presented in the report Effective Chemistry Communication in Informal Environments and is based on the best available empirical evidence from the research literature on informal learning, science communication, and chemistry education. The framework consists of five elements which can be applied broadly to any science communication event in an informal setting.

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