Assessing Mission-Related Learning Outcomes at Zoos and Aquaria: Prevalence, Barriers, and Needs

Jerry F. Luebke, Alejandro Grajal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


The authors investigated the current practices for assessing mission-related learning outcomes at institutions that belong to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) in North America. A survey instrument was sent to 207 education directors in order to examine each institution's efforts in conducting audience research and evaluating the impact of their mission. Survey results from 97 institutions revealed that a large proportion of zoos and aquaria conduct visitor research; however, most only collect measures related to operational performance and not measures concerning mission-related learning outcomes such as knowledge gains, affective reactions to animals, or intended conservation actions. Large institutions tended to collect more information than smaller institutions. Most responding institutions also indicated a need for additional data to evaluate their mission performance. Not surprisingly, the most prevalent barriers for conducting visitor research were found to be inadequate staffing capacity and budgets. Most institutions clearly understand the need for additional mission-related research efforts. Because most institutions already conduct some audience research, incremental efforts, such as pooling resources or common measuring standards could yield deeper understanding of the mission performance in zoos and aquaria.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number608013
Pages (from-to)195-208
Number of pages14
JournalVisitor Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Communication
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management
  • Museology


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