Evaluation Toolkit Case Study (Tool 6 – Snapshot Interviews)
This Case Study using tool 6 – Snapshot interviews is taken from a science museum that hosts a lot of visits by school students and their teachers. Their experience is also likely to be similar to a university laboratory or other organisation which is visited by schools.
To improve the experience of the teachers and students who visited – and to be able to encourage even more to attend – we realised it was important to find out more about why teachers were bringing their students and how the visit fits into what they are doing at school.
We also wanted to see if there were differences in timings, especially why some teachers brought their students in the autumn while others preferred the spring/summer, and whether we needed to provide different content at different times of year.
What we did
Although we wanted to ask a lot of questions, we narrowed it down to four (you can see a copy of the sheet we used to record the questions at snapshots_questions):
- What did you do to prepare your students for the visit?
- How is this visit related to the work you are doing in school?
- Have you set your students any tasks to do while they’re here?
- Do plan to do anything connected to the visit back in the classroom, after you return to school?
When the teachers first arrived with their students to the schools entrance at our museum we approached as many teachers as we could, and asked them if they thought they might have about two minutes to answer a couple of questions during their students’ lunch break. Nearly every teacher we asked agreed – we think this is probably because we emphasised how quick and easy it was going to be. The only exceptions were people who were already planning to leave before lunch or who were not the group’s regular teacher (for example they were just accompanying the group as chaperones). We also checked with the teachers what time they were planning to eat lunch and where we would be able to find them. The museum had a picnic area, which is where most school groups ate lunch.
Later that same day we located the teachers again in the picnic area, and reminded them that they had agreed to talk with us, again emphasising that it would take about ‘90 seconds, maybe two minutes’. We quickly wrote down their answers (using our snapshots_questions forms) while we chatted and also found out what year group of students they taught. After the interview we thanked them for their time.
Data was collected in the autumn (November) and then again in the late spring (May) so that we could compare the responses from the two different times of year – we wrote the date of each interview on the bottom of each sheet so we could tell the difference between them when we brought it all together.
The interview responses were read through and then entered into an Excel spreadsheet for analysis (we’ve provided a copy of it at snapshots_data). Each interview was entered on a single row, with one column used per question, and a short description of the response to that question typed in (taken from the notes made at the time of each interview). Where the phrasing was verbatim (in exactly the words used by the interviewee) we used ‘quotation marks’; other comments were summarised or paraphrased.
We also deliberately left an extra row in between each response, which was used for recording codes, or short labels relating to that response (see ‘Data Analysis’ below). The data from the autumn interviews were entered on one worksheet (SM-Nov) and the spring interviews on another (SM-May).
Reviewing the responses a few times, we started to see common themes in the responses that the teachers had given. We recorded these on a third worksheet (Codes). We kept re-reading our responses and going back to our codes until we were happy that we had most of the major themes covered within our Codes list. Then we went back through all the data in both worksheets and applied our list of codes to the responses, by writing each code in the row below the responses themselves whenever that theme appeared. Responses could be given more than one code. Finally, we summarised how many responses fell into the various categories. Since we had asked what year group their students were from, and had two data sets from different times of year, we were also able to compare responses between primary and secondary school teachers, as well as between autumn and spring interviews.
What we found out
76 teachers were interviewed (48 primary, 28 secondary). Although we do not know if these teachers are ‘representative’, we do know that there were more primary school classes visiting than secondary at the times we conducted the snapshot interviews. In addition, the numbers seem sufficient to have captured a range of views, so they meet our purposes quite well.
The main findings included:
- The majority of teachers did at least try to connect the visit to the school curriculum
- Primary teachers (32 of 48) were more likely to mention specific topics than secondary teachers (12 of 28)
- Secondary teachers (10 of 28) were more likely to mention general curriculum connections than primary teachers (9 of 48)
- The unique experience of visiting the science museum was somewhat more important to primary teachers (25 of 48) than to secondary teachers (10 of 28)
- Student enjoyment seemed similarly important to primary and secondary teachers
- Autumn visits seemed to be more academically focused than spring/summer visits, which were more about ‘having fun’, and with fewer specific tasks set for the students to complete during their visit
- In autumn, 9 of 21 primary teachers and 7 of 13 secondary teachers set students structured tasks to complete during their visit
Moving forward, given that student enjoyment and especially the uniqueness of what is offered by the museum is important to teachers, the museum will try to continue providing enjoyable experiences that are distinct from school. At the same time, we will try to make curriculum connections more explicit – so that both primary and secondary teachers might have an easier time making those links. Doing so is likely to support student learning AND to make it easier for teachers to justify their visit. We also intend to particularly emphasise the worksheets and other academic opportunities we provide during our marketing efforts in the Autumn as these seem of most interest to teachers then.