The Kentucky Historical Society (KHS) contracted RK&A to conduct a research study to examine the effect of the HistoryMobile, a mobile museum, on public school students in fourth and fifth grade. The HistoryMobile features the exhibition Torn Within and Threatened Without: Kentucky in the Civil War, which presents stories that highlight the importance of individual choice as a major factor in shaping Kentucky history. The goal of this study was to measure 1) critical thinking, 2) perspective, 3) content and knowledge, as well as to explore students’ affective experience with HistoryMobile.
How did we approach this study?
RK&A conducted in-depth interviews with fourth- and fifth-grade students from five schools in the Covington School District. The design was quasi-experimental; we conducted interviews with students who had not yet visited HistoryMobile (Control, n=49), with students who had visited HistoryMobile but not used any pre- and post-activities (Treatment A, n=50) and with students who had both visited HistoryMobile and used the pre- and post-activities (Treatment B, n=50). A fourth group of 43 eighth graders who had visited and completed the pre- and post-activities were interviewed as well. During the interviews, RK&A showed students materials to prompt responses. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and then scored on a rubric.
What did we learn?
The study showed that students had an enjoyable experience in the HistoryMobile with students liking making choices at the touchscreens. Beyond enjoyment, this study explored two things: 1) how students scored on the skill areas relative to each other; and 2) statistical differences between control and treatment students’ achievement, which indicates the impact of the HistoryMobile. To the first point, students scored highest on the perspective skill area, followed by critical thinking, and content and knowledge. To the second point, there were no measured differences between Treatment and Control groups in any of the skill areas.
What are the implications of the findings?
Unfortunately, the Treatment students did not score better than Control on any measure of critical thinking, perspective, and content and knowledge. A few things that might help the HistoryMobile have impact include extending the length of students’ HistoryMobile experience beyond the current 20-30-minute experience, including at least 5-10 minutes of closing reflection (as opposed to currently inconsistent amount of time depending on classroom punctuality), and considering alternative ways to optimize students’ time in the HistoryMobile, such as encouraging students to spend focused time at one touchscreen versus visiting all six. The study also revealed that pre- and post-materials did not impact students. Pre- and post-materials are often touted as being an invaluable extension to museum experiences. However, no matter how well-designed the pre- and post-materials are, they are ultimately handed over to teachers for implementation, which KHS has no control over. Additionally, the real, authentic field trip experience often overshadows the pre- and post-materials.
See all Kentucky Historical Society projects.