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Using the Contextual Model of Learning to Understand Visitor Learning from a Science Center Exhibition

October 13, 2015,11:35:43

2005

Falk, J., Storksdieck, M., 2015, Science Education, 89, 5, 744–778

10.1002/sce.20078

To find out how specific independent variables (such as prior knowledge, interest, motivation, choice and control, within and between group social interaction, orientation, advance organizers, architecture, and exhibition design) contribute to learning outcomes when not measured in isolation and if the "Contextual Model of Learning" is useful for understanding learning in museums.

Visitors were asked a series of pre-visit questions, were timed and tracked through the exhibit and then asked post visit questions. There was no control group.

does not apply

Dependent variables were measure pre and post visit through the exhibit. These included seven separate measures of life science learning--- four measures from Personal Meaning Mapping (extent, breadth, depth, and mastery), two from an open-ended question about life (breadth and depth), and one measure derived from the three multiple-choice questions. Inter-rater reliability was established between researchers for coding of these measures. Independent variables included: Motivation and expectation, Prior knowledge, Prior experiences, Prior interest, Choice and control, Within group social mediation, Facilitated mediation by others, Advance organizers, Orientation to the physical space, Physical environment, Design of exhibits (quality and exposure). These were measured through a combination of self-report questions and observation.

Every fifth group that crossed an imaginary line leading to the exhibition was approached. The investigator approached one adult within the group and asked them to participate. School groups and summer camps groups were not asked to participate.

81% of visitors asked to participate agreed to take part in the study.

Yes

Participants in the study did show evidence of significant positive improvement in their science learning. Prior interest, choice and control, orientation, and architecture had little to no apparent effect on learning. Prior knowledge, motivation, and expectations, within group social interaction, advance organizers, and exhibition design strongly affected visitor learning.

This study took place in one exhibit in one museum. The audience was representative of the general audience for that museum.

The value of the Contextual Model was supported.

Descriptive: Observation(s)

Descriptive: Survey/questionnaire

Literature Review

World of Life (WoL) exhibition at the California Science Center, Los Angeles between 2000-2001.

No

217

White/Caucasian

Black/African American

Hispanic/Latino

Asian

Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander

Other

USA

Female

Male

Urban

Informal ed: General public

Attitude

Knowledge

Informal Education

5E/E2

6A/P2

Teaching and learning in informal settings

Life sciences: Astrobiology

Exhibits

Museums

Visitors

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