The story of Research Quest begins in the spring of 2013. That’s when the Natural History Museum of Utah, with the invaluable support and encouragement of a Utah foundation dedicated to educational excellence, set out to help kids become better critical thinkers. To help them learn how to weigh evidence, analyze arguments, and evaluate data before coming to a specific conclusion.
The goal was to create a program that would be scalable to broad and diverse audiences, would have measurable impact, and would leverage innovative, new technology. It would also align with the Museum’s core strengths as a scientific institution with decades of experience getting kids excited about science.
And while we didn’t have a specific program in mind, we did have a plan for developing one.
We brought together an all-star team of university research scientists, expert teachers, and curriculum developers, along with professionals from the worlds of digital learning, museums, and game design. Together, we surveyed research on teaching and learning critical thinking. We investigated best practices to use technology. We generated ideas, narrowed the field of possibilities, then vetted the finalists with a team of experts to determine the idea most worth pursuing. We then developed several low-fidelity prototypes and tested them to see if they could generate the critical thinking we were looking for. Throughout it all, we stayed focused on delivering a program that would help teachers meet a range of challenging new educational standards and be delivered, online, to classrooms around our state and beyond.
We found a winner.
The culmination of our work is Research Quest -- web-based science investigations that are easy for teachers to use and fun for students. Plus, our rigorous pre-, post- and delayed post-testing shows that Research Quest students possess improved critical thinking skills compared to their control group peers.
Today, more than five years later, the Natural History Museum of Utah is building out its suite of Research Quest investigations thanks to generous support from our funding partners, including a recent $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation.
Want to find out when new lessons are available? Or, help us beta test the newest Research Quest investigations in your classroom? Let us know.