November 26, 2013
Team-based inquiry (TBI) is the NISE Network’s practical approach to evaluation focused around an ongoing cycle of inquiry: question, investigate, reflect, and improve. This month, we’re sharing a story of TBI at work from the Children’s Discovery Museum of West Virginia (CDMWV) that demonstrates how TBI can improve practice, build capacity, and even strengthen partnerships and institutional investment.
CDMWV is a small children’s museum in Morgantown, WV – at the time of this TBI story, they had just one full-time and one part-time staff. Over the last few years, supported by their partnership with the NISE Network, CDMWV has also developed a close collaboration with West Virginia University’s nanoscale science and technology initiative (NanoSAFE). Julie Bryan, CDMWV director, learned about TBI at the Nano and Society Workshop and decided to put it into action to test the "You Decide" activity with their young audience.
Throughout their TBI practice, Julie found the worksheet that NISE Net created was "very helpful and easy to use." The lessons that the CDMWV staff learned from their TBI sessions allowed them to improve the experience they offer to their visitors and to learn from each other. For example, during one of their TBI sessions, Julie observed how a facilitator expertly adapted the program to work with a very young child. Now, when training other staff and volunteers, she shares those modifications to help everyone be prepared to present the program for young audiences.
Julie asked both NanoSAFE’s outreach coordinator and the president of CDMWV’s board to participate in the TBI process as evaluators. Although they were recruited to help out because of limited staff resources, Julie is grateful to have had the opportunity to involve them. She suggests that if other institutions have difficulty getting their board or other partners to "buy in" to nano outreach, doing TBI "would be a great way to facilitate that since the evaluator has to do more than just passively watch the program. If you are on the evaluation side of things, you start to look at it differently than if you are just a presenter."
CDMWV plans to continue implementing TBI as they expand their staff, as they value how the process explicitly involves reflection about what works in a program and why. Look out for the upcoming TBI guide (which will be included in the 2014 NanoDays kit) to help you implement TBI at your own institution!