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Bill Watson

Bill Watson

Chief of Onsite Learning

Phone: 202-633-1127

Mailing Address:
Smithsonian Institution
PO Box 37012, MRC 158
Washington, DC 20013-7012

Shipping Address:
Smithsonian Institution
National Museum of Natural History
10th & Constitution NW
Washington, DC 20560-0121


Ed.D. The George Washington University, 2010
M.A.T. University of Portland, 1999
B.S. Tulane University, 1997

Research and Programming

Bill Watson is Chief of Onsite Learning in the Office of Education and Outreach. The activity of the Onsite Learning branch includes the development, implementation, and evaluation of programming that happens at the Museum. This work currently includes the content and activity training for the volunteer programs, the Discovery Room, Naturalist Center, Forensic Anthropology Lab, Exhibition Based Programs, Insect Zoo, and Butterfly Pavilion. The current focus of Bill’s work and his team is initiating, designing, and evaluating new learning experiences for the museum’s audiences that are participatory, relevant, and accessible. The goal is to use what we know about how people learn to research and implement new ways to deliver effective, memorable, and meaningful experiences at the museum that build on previous experiences outside the museum and inspire new ones.

Current priority programs for the Onsite Learning Team include the Youth Engagement through Science (YES!) initiative, launching a Public Participation in Scientific Research (Citizen Science) program, Rapid Response to Current Events in the Natural World, and implementation of a systematic set of metrics and protocols for evaluating educational programs.

Recent and Planned Research

  • The inclusive and accessible museum: Discovering visitors’ perceptions of the Forensic Anthropology Lab.
  • The impacts of experiences in an exhibition and related lab on preparation for learning in school and perceptions of scientists.
  • Investigating the effects of orienting questions as preparation for learning from an exhibition on human origins.
  • Measuring the impacts of social media: Interpreting user activity in the context of a framework for understanding the public value of a natural history museum.
  • What does it mean to be human? Impacts of a 15,000 square-foot exhibition on an age old question.

Selected Publications and Presentations

Watson, W.A. (2010). Middle school students’ experiences in a science museum as preparation
for future learning. Available from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (UMI No. 3397645)

Watson, B., Munley, M.E., & Werb, S. (2010). Public value at the National Museum of Natural History: A museum-wide process for establishing attributes of success and how to measure them. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Visitor Studies Association, Phoenix, AZ.

Dancu, T., Kisiel, J., & DeWitt, J. (2010). Field trip research and evaluation: Strategies for working with schools. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Visitor Studies Association, Phoenix, AZ.

Watson, W. A., Pyke, C., Lynch, S. J., & Ochsendorf, R. J. (2008). Strategic replication of quasi- experiments in evidence-based research. Manuscript submitted for publication

Watson, B. (2007). Working together: Informal educators' beliefs about supporting school standards with field trips. Navigator, 43(3), 1-2.

Watson, B. (2007). Writing to learn in museums. In K. McLean & W. Pollock (Eds.), Visitor Voices in Museum Exhibitions (pp. 151-155). Washington, DC: Association of Science-TechnologyCenters.

Taymans, J. Watson, W. A., Ochsendorf, R. J., Pyke, C., & Szesze, M. (2007). Effectiveness of a highly rated science curriculum unit for students with disabilities in general education classrooms. Exceptional Children, 73(2), 202-223.

Watson, W. A., Lynch, S., & Kuipers, J. (2006, April). Intersecting discourses in the science classroom: Argumentation and social Status in middle school science lessons. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, CA.

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