Project: Exploratorium’s Institute for Inquiry

Authors: Mark St. John

Type: Monograph

Publication: February 2001

The Turing Test: A New Approach to Evaluating Investments in Educational Capacity and Infrastructure—Assessing the Impact of the Exploratorium’s Institute for Inquiry

Monograph (pdf, 38 pages)

Appendix (pdf, 20 pages)


Inverness Research Associates — a small educational research group located in Northern California — used an innovative evaluation methodology to conduct a rigorous evaluation of the Exploratorium Institute for Inquiry (IFI). The new approach stems from the thinking of the British mathematician, Alan Turing and the acclaimed “Turing Test” which he devised to determine how well computers model human intelligence. Similar to that test, the approach Inverness Research used in evaluating IFI centers on the notion of “distinguishability.” More specifically, the approach poses the following research question: To what extent are the participants in a program distinguishable from otherwise similar people who do not participate in a program? More specifically in this case, the question is: Are the elementary science reform projects involved with IFI distinguishable from other, otherwise equivalent, projects that do not have a relationship with IFI? To answer the question in a rigorous manner, Inverness Research set up a “double-blind” study in which both researchers and subjects (in this case the PIs of the NSF funded projects) were not privy to the specific purposes of the research. Instead, a skilled interviewer was given the assignment of interviewing project leaders about the capacity of each project to initiate and sustain a process of inquiry-based elementary science reform. Then independent expert reviewers were asked to review the interviews and make comparative “blind” judgments based on their review of the evidence gathered.

Intended Audience

Science-Technology-Engineering-Math (STEM) Education Leaders, Reform Leaders and Funders, and general public.


Any and all errors are claimed by the authors of this document, Inverness Research, Inc.

Distribution Policy

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