Immersive Theater - a Proven Way to Enhance Learning Retention

Friday, 19 December 2014
Patricia H Reiff1, Laurie Zimmerman2, Stacia Spillane2 and Carolyn Sumners3, (1)Rice University, Houston, TX, United States, (2)Houston Independent School District, Research, Houston, TX, United States, (3)Houston Museum of Natural Science, Astronomy, Houston, TX, United States
The portable immersive theater has gone from our first demonstration at fall AGU 2003 to a product offered by multiple companies in various versions to literally millions of users per year. As part of our NASA funded outreach program, we conducted a test of learning in a portable Discovery Dome as contrasted with learning the same materials (visuals and sound track) on a computer screen. We tested 200 middle school students (primarily underserved minorities). Paired t-tests and an independent t-test were used to compare the amount of learning that students achieved. Interest questionnaires were administered to participants in formal (public school) settings and focus groups were conducted in informal (museum camp and educational festival) settings. Overall results from the informal and formal educational setting indicated that there was a statistically significant increase in test scores after viewing We Choose Space. There was a statistically significant increase in test scores for students who viewed We Choose Space in the portable Discovery Dome (9.75) as well as with the computer (8.88). However, long-term retention of the material tested on the questionnaire indicated that for students who watched We Choose Space in the portable Discovery Dome, there was a statistically significant long-term increase in test scores (10.47), whereas, six weeks after learning on the computer, the improvements over the initial baseline (3.49) were far less and were not statistically significant. The test score improvement six weeks after learning in the dome was essentially the same as the post test immediately after watching the show, demonstrating virtually no loss of gained information in the six week interval. In the formal educational setting, approximately 34% of the respondents indicated that they wanted to learn more about becoming a scientist, while 35% expressed an interest in a career in space science. In the informal setting, 26% indicated that they were interested in pursuing a career in space science.