Children's Museum Research Network

CMRN The Children's Museum Research Network (CMRN) was created in 2015 with funding from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services. Its goal is to collectively develop a sustainable infrastructure for generating actionable, cross-institutional research results to advance the field-wide priorities established in the Learning Value of Children's Museums Research Agenda.

imls logoThe Association of Children's Museums and the University of Washington's Museology Graduate Program are partners in leading CMRN. An original cohort of ten children's museums was selected for their ongoing research and evaluation efforts. These ten museums have been instrumental in developing the Network and initiating research studies. In 2017, an additional five museums will join the Network.

Learn more about CMRN's background and view an infographic about the project. CMRN has completed two research studies and is actively conducting a third. Read more about the studies below.


Join CMRN's Expanded Cohort

Five additional children's museums are sought to expand the cohort from 10 to 15 members. Selected museums will participate in the Network for one year, from September 2017 through September 2018. The expanded cohort will be announced in September 2017.

Research Study 1: Learning Frameworks

The Network's first study focused on learning frameworks with learning frameworks being defined as the educational standards and/or outcomes by which museums guide the development of exhibits and programs. The study analyzed learning frameworks from five Network museums. Analysis was guided by the following research questions:

  • What major vocabularies do the frameworks share? Where do they diverge?
  • What constructs do children's museums use and prioritize in the learning frameworks?
  • What learning theories do these frameworks implicitly and expliciitly reflect or endorse?

CMRN SIG1 The Network completed a document review of each of the five frameworks and interviews with key staff at the museums to develop a deeper understanding of how their institutional beliefs have been reflected in the learning frameworks' development and use. Analysis of the data revealed three key themes: learning approaches, learning outcomes, an the role of play in each of the learning frameworks. Dissemination of the research study results include:

Research Study 2: The Value of Play in Children's Museums

The Network's first research study on Learning Frameworks revealed variation in how individual museums emphasize play, defined play, and described the connections between play and learning. For these reasons, the Network decided to focus on play for its second research study. The Network interviewed senior education and exhibits staff from a representative sample of 48 children's museums across the U.S., asking each participant to describe their institution's perspectives on play.

Research Question:

  • How do children's museums position themselves and their work arount play?

Interview Topics:

  • Visibility & role of play in mission statement
  • Definitions of play used by museum internally
  • Beliefs about the connections between play and learning
  • Benefits of play
  • Measures of play

Study findings indicated that while many children's museum staff strongly value play, few have formal descriptions of what play means or how play supports learning in their institutions. Dissemination of the research study results include:

Research Study 3: Caregivers Understanding of Learning in Children's Museums

The Network's third research study is intended to gain a better understanding of what parents/caregivers learn about their children during a visit to a children's museums. CMRN members will be sking their visitors to particpate in online questionniares. Once this data is collected it will then be analyzed by the Network. This study is guided by the following research questions:

  • What do parents/caregiviers learn about their children from their children's museum experience?
  • What is it about the children's museum experience that parents/caregivers feel contributes to that learning?

More to come soon!

 

 

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