Our Project: Facilitation


The Facilitation project is a research study designed to investigate facilitation styles and their outcomes in two distinct but representative museum environments. The first environment, Science Buzz at Science Museum of Minnesota, is a popular website known as an exemplary platform for exploring current science. The second environment is the more distributed use of social software at the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science (MLS). Instead of creating learning platforms that are hosted internally, MLS is experimenting with building learning communities where people are already gathering on the web like Flickr, Twitter, and YouTube. The Facilitation project builds on our work on a prior research project (Take Two). In that study, we identified facilitation in social media environments as likely very powerful and identified as well some distinct styles in use at both museums. In the Facilitation study, we have been deliberate in our design and facilitation practices, identifying and using replicable facilitation styles and attempting to identify outcomes associated with those styles.

The Facilitation project is organized into a set of sequenced research projects. One of which was an Experimonth, a concept and practice developed at the MLS. Each experimonth is a monthlong participatory inquiry and sharing experiment that brings scientists and citizens together to use data and observation to make meaning (see here for more details) we conducted in November of 2011. We ran Experimonth at both institutions, called "Experimonth Race" at the Museum of Life and Science and "Experimonth Identity" at the Science Museum of Minnesota.

Recently, we teamed up with Project FeederWatch and created a program called PFW: Sketch, or FeederSketch, which was facilitated on their blog. Our goal was to introduce sketching as an observation practice to members already participating in this citizen science project. This new environment differed greatly from Experimonth, but nevertheless illustrated how deliberate facilitation techniques can help yield desired results (in our case, learning and moments of change).