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Direct and Unobtrusive Measures of Informal STEM Education Outcomes


"The free-choice nature of informal STEM education (ISE) makes rigorous and contextually appropriate evaluation of outcomes challenging. Traditional measures such as surveys and interviews have been widely used in ISE evaluations, but they have limitations: They are typically self-reports that are susceptible to the reactive effects of measurement, and they tend to intrude upon the participant's learning experience. The ISE field needs measures that capture outcomes in more direct and less obtrusive ways, permitting triangulation with multiple measures on outcomes. In this chapter, we define what we mean by direct and unobtrusive measures, and we discuss the feasibility and future of using such measures in ISE evaluations by drawing on examples from the field. We include a case study in which we adapt a school-based performance assessment to embed into the informal learning experiences of participants at a STEM tinkering workshop; and we highlight successes, challenges, and implications for the future."