Most of the research methods being used are observations of various kinds. Many track people's interactions between parent and child at an exhibit, including types of conversation and what kinds of ways each person interacts with the exhibit and with each other. As well as these observations, there were comparative studies that tracked differences in patterns when changing something about the environment (such as making something more interactive by taking away a glass covering so that people could touch the contents). Research methods also included interviewing visitors about their learning experiences. This sometimes included a pre- and post-interview, but sometimes just a reflection once they had gone through the exhibit or museum.
There were many types of learning being discussed in this chapter. Most of the research had to do with interaction and the effect that had on learning. Much of this centered around the fact that people learn better when they have interest in the subject and have the ability to interact and manipulate the environment.
The chapter also points out challenges that these institutions face - such as visitors leaving without picking up on the message that the exhibit was intending to show. Another issue is connecting the visitors' experiences with actual abstract science, rather than just the explanation or task at hand.
The main research methods used in this paper consisted of observation of the visitors in museums (most notably their reactions, level of interactivity with the exhibit, and movement through the exhibit), self reporting done by visitors after going through an exhibit, and surveying of the visitors at different intervals of the exhibit. Some of the findings from these research methods include that museums often spark excitement in the subject matter (which has been found to be critical to spark sustained interest and effort in the subject matter), interactivity and "hands on" projects help visitors retain more information, and often presenting information that challenges or changes a previously held notion will help with retention of information as well. What I found especially interesting about the article however were the studies that involved observing how parent-child interactions occurred at museums and how that must be incorporated into exhibit design. The paper went into depth about how having a parent present definitely helped a child gain more from the museum but also discussed that often times (for an interactive activity especially) the parent might shoulder some of the more analytical work while keeping the child occupied with more manual parts of the activity. This would then result in the child not necessarily gaining as much information from the exhibit as the parent did. This led to me realizing an important challenge that museum exhibits face - having to appeal to different age groups and the possibility that an exhibit meant for a certain age group might not be as effective based on how different age groups interact. Another critical aspect of this set of studies was the fact that exhibit designers must incorporate the different personalities that approach museums with "agendas" as the paper phrases it. As museums are supposed to service a large audience, they must appeal to people who are not only very knowledgeable about the subject material and feel personal affinity with the subject but also those who know very little but are curious and wish to learn. This then ties back with the concept from before that museums themselves are found to be places that can spark initial excitement. I think the big takeaway from this article for me is that museums are definitely effective teaching mechanisms, but if not considered carefully, then exhibits may often fall short of appealing to a large audience - whether the segregation is caused by age, previous knowledge, or basic intrinsic interest.
The research methods primarily consist of observing museum visitors. When observing visitors, it is best for scientists to look for signs of excitement and interest, since those indicate better early stages of learning. In addition, observing the user’s interactions with the exhibit is another way of gauging visitor learning. Generally, exhibits that are interactive will lead to more more interest and visitor engagement, and visitors will tend to think more about the concepts being taught. The research discussed in the paper also results from self-reports done by the visitors. In these self-reports, visitors can confirm that they have gained some content knowledge from a certain exhibit or experience. Another point to consider was that visitors often self-report a deeper understanding of the concept at hand, since they are building off of direct sensory or immersive experience from the exhibit. In addition, when observing large designed experiences, there are also opportunities for visitors to reflect on their own learning process.
I was particularly interested in the ideas discussed in Strand 6: Identifying with the Scientific Expertise. I found the term “enculturation” very interesting, since it seems almost counterintuitive that knowledge acquisition depends so much a community identity. I had always considered learning to be a personal experience, especially going to a museum or exhibit and individually reflecting on the new information. However, common agendas, similar prior knowledge, and personal initiative all play a role in knowledge acquisition through group settings. The common backgrounds create a base identity for a certain group, which then fosters growth and participation in science. Museums cater to many different groups, but allowing individuals to form connections with each other, as well as focusing on interactions between parents and children especially, further adds to the learning experience.
One of my main conclusions from the paper was that all of these factors contribute to the effect and teaching ability of a certain exhibit, but it depends on each individual exhibit to balance the different components. The paper specifically highlights the potential for interactivity to be over-used in an exhibit, which then can overwhelm the visitors and cause frustration. No matter how interactive or how group-appropriate (whether that is a class group, friends, or even family), each exhibit requires extensive decision-making to organize and present the material to a large audience in a way that is interesting, engaging, and ensures learning on the visitor’s side.
There are a wide variety of research methods mentioned in this chapter, ranging from very qualitative mass surveys, to observations of facial expressions, to more qualitative testing experiments. Most of the studies referenced had to do with observations of visitors in designed settings, be it analyzing the topics of their conversations and comments, recording their displayed emotions, or getting information about how they interacted with a certain exhibit. There were a few more rigorous studies, such as the testing of the effects of a certain bicycle exhibit for learning about bone structure, in which there were control groups and also retainment testing. In addition, the chapter referenced quite a few anecdotal examples to support various findings, similar to responses from self-reported visitor surveys.
Further, the chapter mentioned 6 strands of evidence of learning in designed settings, including learner interest, understanding scientific knowledge, engaging in scientific reasoning, reflecting on science, engaging in scientific practices, and personal identification with science. All of these strands have varying levels of research backing and scientific evidence, but each one explains specific ways learning is achieved, encouraged or possibly diminished, by certain aspects of designed setting designs or visitor behavior. For example, one outcome of a designed setting may be to simply increase visitor interest in a certain subject, which could eventually lead to sustained interest, further investigation, and finally personal adoption of the interest with further engagement (four phase model of interest-development).
From this reading, I was surprised at how much research already been done regarding designed settings, and exhibition settings for families in particular. There are many different design choices that I would not have considered before reading this chapter, and I learned many interesting factors to keep in mind when thinking about the construction of a designed setting. Although it was emphasized that the visitors/participants to a designed setting play the biggest role in determining their own learning experience, there are many significant design choices regarding things such as interactivity, placement or order of displays, social interactions between visitors, and evoking of emotions, that affect not just the amount of, but also the content and quality of learning accomplished.
The reading went over some of the key ways of science content in a museum that included developing interest in science, engaging in scientific reasoning, reflecting on science to name a few. The reading shows examples for each and also mentions many design qualities that have been found to be helpful in learning like interactivity. However, throughout the reading there were mentions of many differing research methods for researching learning in a museum environment. The majority of the research methods seem to have been observational in nature. The researchers observe the actions, reactions, emotions of the visitors like children, parents, students, teachers etc. This can be seen mostly with respect to the parent-children interaction in the museum to see how the parents lead on the children, support and encourage the children to explore the museum, show them interesting exhibits etc. Some of the other popular method seemed to be self-reports from visitors about what they felt or learned from the exhibits. I believe that although they are great at letting us find out exactly what they learned, it is a form that is very reflective and few people would be willing to do them. So this might not give that a high quantity of data, but the quality of the response would be really high. Casual interviews and drawing personal meaning map diagrams, both pre- and post-exhibit was also mentioned as a technique used. Another method that was used in field trips was pre-post survey based studies. Furthermore, doing experiments seems to be the most popular method to test learning among visitors in different situations especially involving design choices.
There was also many different types of learning outcomes that was talked about in the reading that researchers look for as evidence of learning in museums. Affect responses or a verbal expression of feeling especially of excitement, surprise and awe seemed to indicate learning in visitors. This seems to work with small children as it was seen frequently in parent child interactions. For much more quantitative measures of learning especially in experiments factual recall of the knowledge learned seemed to be popular. A deeper evidence of learning and conceptual understanding was gained by finding the degree of meaning-making of such knowledge. Other evidences of learning in museums included time spent interacting with exhibits and persistence of learned information over time. In field trips from schools the change in knowledge and attitudes was also representative of learning. I personally believe that teachers preparing students pre-museum visit is extremely helpful from a personal experience, as it allows students to have a clear idea of what he can learn about, and spur interest. After all the challenge is to ignite some interest in visitors regarding the information that they continue learning. I will be keeping these learning outcomes and research methods in mind during the design project.
There are several aspects that create a well-developed exhibition. The exhibition must be comfortable for the user — that is, it cannot overwhelm the user and cause them cognitive fatigue. It must also be engaging and provide users with an enjoyable experience. Elements that ‘surprise’ users are often used to engage them. Third, a good exhibition should be reinforcing — that is, it should provide feedback and support to visitors that they are engaging with the exhibition the way they should be. Lastly, a good exhibition should provide a meaningful experience to visitors. Not only should visitors learn scientific material, but also they should find personal significance in the things they have learned.
Initially, I thought that the only important factors in a good exhibition were that it was engaging and taught the user some science they did not know. It was interesting to read about other factors that increase users intrinsic motivation to engage with the subject matter, retain their knowledge, and keep a more long-term interest. I think the ideas of personal significance and using shock factor to engage users are particularly applicable to an exhibit for the Anthropocene. Finding an engaging way to present data about what the Anthropocene is and about climate change to users would provide surprise to users. Engaging users in becoming more aware of how they personally affect the environment would increase personal significance of the exhibit to users.
Additionally, this reading made me realize the significance of museums in increasing curiosity in users and creating an intrinsic motivation for people to learn about science and increase their personal commitment to action. The reading described a study in which visitors to two museums and two zoos were asked to describe their role in conservation action and being part of the solution to environmental problems. 54% of visitors said they would try to be part of the solution to environmental problems. However, a similar study of visitors to Disney Animal Kingdom’s Conservation Station showed that these plans of action are often short term, and visitors often do not continue with their intended conservation activities. I thought presenting potential solutions to visitors could be a very sensible way to increase motivation of visitors to continue intended activities. Therefore, providing examples of activities visitors could engage in that would help the environment would be necessary for a successful exhibit.
In Chapter 5 - "Science Learning in Designed Settings" of "Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits," there are a variety of research methods described. They range from highly qualitative surveys, to more observation based data collection, and even to more qualitative experimental studies. Much of the research mentioned dealt with observations regarding the visitors in the different designed settings. The text even notes that in Falk and Dierking's study in 1997, they directly interviewed students and adults after their museum field trip to gather data and insight on their memory, impact of the museum visit, etc. Another research method described was studying the parents’ explanations to their children in a museum context. I find it interesting that because the parents' explanations contribute towards a child's museum experience, depending on the type of explanation itself, the child's experience can vary vastly. Not to mention that children are already highly influenceable at a young age.
Furthermore, there were also various types of learning outcomes that were discussed in the reading that researchers look for as evidence of learning in designed spaces. One of the most striking learning out comes mentioned was Leinhardt and Knutson's (2004) combination of the notion of conversation as both an outcome and a means of learning into a single learning model. Their study resulted in four levels of visitors’ interpretation: listing, analysis, synthesis, and explanation. I was fascinated by the idea of how these four interpretation levels not only influenced an individual's overall thinking, but also greatly varied from individual to individual based on numerous factors such as: age, available resources, skills/background, etc. The chapter also describes in detail six different strands of evidence of learning in designed settings: learner interest, understanding scientific knowledge, engaging in scientific reasoning, reflecting on science, engaging in scientific practices, and personal identification with science. I found myself thinking about the influence of parents' explanations again when considering the learner interest section. The text mentions a four-phase model of interest development: "(1) triggered situational interest, (2) maintained situational interest, (3) emerging individual interest; and (4) well-developed individual interest." Depending on the tone and presentation of the parent's explanation, the child's level of interest can also be greatly affected.
Overall, I found this reading to be insightful and helpful with forming an introductory foundation and understanding for this course's objectives and goals.
The research methods mentioned in this chapter primarily consisted of observing the learning of visitors in museum exhibits through both observing interactions and collecting data in self-reports, surveys pre and post exhibit, and creating mind maps pre and post. The observations included how much the visitors interacted with the exhibit, what their understanding of the exhibit was after going through, and also actually observing facial expressions and how visitors spent their time. Some examples of specific methods included that the researchers set up an trial for parents to work with their children on a 45 minute experiment, and observed both what the parents and children roles in the experiments were as well as who gained the most knowledge from the trial. Research methods also included more quantitative methods such as collecting numbers on ticket sales which indicate how many people want to see the exhibit, recording the amount of time visitors spent on the exhibit, and recording the percentage of aspects of the exhibit visitors mentioned feeling excitement towards in post exhibit surveys.
A repeated learning outcome from this chapter is that interaction in exhibits make them more successful for the visitor to retain and learn information. In a study done on field trips for students, it was shown that having more hands-on activities create a more effective field trip. This allows children to handle materials, engage in activities, and observe objects or animals that created more excitement for children about the exhibit. This leads to another large learning outcome, that creating excitement in an exhibit can be a link to encourage the interest in learning. More research on interactivity showed that the process of ‘do and see’ where visitors are able to manipulate an exhibit to observe is results is successful in both peaking interest and creating an understanding of the exhibit. Another method of creative interactive exhibit is is questioning and predicting, but it is rarer. Creating interest was also heavily researched and the outcome of a model was developed to collect interest. This model categorizes interests levels into the first triggering situational interest with surprising information, maintaining that interest with tasks and personal involvement, emerging individual interest, and then well-developed interest where the visitor chooses to engage in more about the topic. Research showed that interest is a peak way of indicating how successful an exhibit can be. Lastly, a study on field trips showed that when teachers prepared their students for the material they’d learn on the trip, they learned much more than otherwise. This had to do with both helping students create an interest in the topic, as well as increase their comfort levels in the exhibit. Other ways to increase comfort in an exhibit setting was to create quiet and smaller spaces for exhibits, as well as use maps, guides, and films to reduce cognitive and contribute to comfort. Another learning outcome showed that multifaceted cognitive learning such as having children watch a simulation of their skeletons bicycle as they did proved to be successful in having students but report and retain their learnings about the skeleton. Lastly, the chapter talks about the effect that social groups such as gender could have an impact on their learning.
I found this chapter really helpful to envision what our projects would be like in this class, both how we can design our experiments as well as possible solutions to make exhibits as successful as possible. It will be interesting to apply these general research methods and learning outcomes to our specific exhibit and keeping in mind a target audience of millennials.
This chapter reported multiple research methods that are using observation of visitors upon the exhibit. These observations can be how the visitor moved, perceived, or reacted to the exhibit, or how a child and a parent, or any two people may have interacted upon visiting an exhibit. With this another method that was popularly used was to survey the visitor pre-departure about their learning experiences (in some cases a self-reported visitor survey was used as well); asking them to reflect in a way. This paper drew a connection between interaction and learning, and how observations and various other research methods can help us better understand this connection. Researchers in this paper are focused on how to engage the audience/visitors and keep them interested.
A type of learning outcome mentioned in this paper that resulted from this research was the idea that, engaging the audience will spark more interest as well, using an activity provided at a Zoo for an example. Another learning outcome mentioned in this article was the outcome of perceiving conversation to be within the same learning model, which was proposed by Leinhardt and Knutson's (2004). This relates to the research that has been done in the way that conversation is an aspect that keeps audiences engaged with an exhibit; and with activities and person to person interaction, comes conversation. Overall, I found this paper to be intriguing and insightful on the importance of engaging an audience with an exhibit.
There are many research methods outlined in this chapter, including surveys using qualitative data, experimental studies and more. The majority is made up of observational studies, which can give a lot of insight to the way visitors are interacting with and learning from the exhibits at the museum.
One of the important things the researchers were looking for when observing was something they called “positive excitement”, which was the expressions of emotions like joy, wonder and surprise. They considered this to be important because they felt this was clear evidence of learning taking place in most cases. I thought this was interesting because that it meant that there are ways and things to look for in the emotions of visitors that can give you an idea about how engaged they are and how much they are learning, which makes the job of focusing in on the actual content that is learned much easier. The reading backed up this idea with research in social psychology that showed that there is a strong link between excitement and learning.
More observational studies lead to researchers believing that deep interest in content is the “gateway” to deep understanding and learning. They discovered this when they noticed that participants more interested in a certain field were more likely to ask more questions in that field and use systematic approaches to learn more and to get answers. This was interesting because it meant that getting visitors to learn more is demonstrably easier just by generating interest, and that this should be one of the first priorities of the exhibits to ensure that interaction leads to the most possible learning. They also found that interested learners are the most better at being “motivated learners” and for challenges and feedback. This was interesting because it meant that by generating interest, more complex topics can be approached because of both a willingness to try learning more challenging things and a motivation that will make visitors less likely to give up when they don’t understand things.
This chapter discusses many different research methods that can be conducted in regards to a visitor in an exhibit. While most of these methods fall under the observation category, such as observing the users emotions, movements, and perceived interest, methods using surveys were also discussed, involving surveys before and after the viewing the exhibit. The main focus of these methods as discussed in this chapter were attempting to keep the user interested in the exhibits, and it appeared that a particularly successful method in doing so was increasing exhibit interactivity.
The users in question for many of the studies done in this chapter were students. I would have liked to see even more research results for user's who perhaps fall into other groups as well. I know that personally some of the successful methods employed would not have resonated with me, and although this chapter is supposed to mainly focus on science learning in this designated setting I can't help but wonder if there's a optimal way to combine several of these methods in a way to target differing groups of individuals.
Another major focus of the chapter and the research methods discussed was on how to better instill the knowledge of the exhibits into the users. However, after reading the chapter I would like to see discussion from an alternative perspective. Using myself as an example again, I don't think I go to museums to necessarily learn, especially since there are similar resources on the internet which I can access much easier. If I'm going to a museum usually it's to relax and just find joy in looking at new and interesting things. Although the chapter isn't discussing this perspective, I definitely would like to see how different methods compare and contrast in these different settings.
This chapter explores metrics of success for science learning in designed settings organized by “Strands” which conceptually consolidate learning outcomes into types of learning that can be facilitated. The six strands outlined in this chapter are: Developing an Interest in Science, Understanding Scientific Knowledge, Engaging in Scientific Reasoning, Reflecting on Science, Engaging in Scientific Practices, and Identifying with the Scientific Enterprise. First, the authors discuss how an ideal designed setting would be able to facilitate learning outcomes across multiple strands, and discuss broadly the types of research practices used to capture data about how successfully a given setting is facilitating learning. The three main research philosophies introduced are: focus on the development of scientific ideas and processes, focus on the appropriation of language and the participation in scientific culture, and focus on changes in participant identity. Next the authors dive into the individual strands, explaining how the general research philosophies are applied in specific studies targeted to a particular learning outcome. In this section lots of very specific research methods are discussed to assess both short and long term learning impacts of a given designed setting. One method that stuck out to me was highlighted in the “Engaging in Scientific Reasoning” strand under techniques that measure the impact of interactivity--researchers observed parents explaining content of exhibits to their children to try to understand whether a particular exhibit was facilitating learning. It turned out that while this was uniquely targeted to the family audience of the exhibit, parents did not communicate with their children with any sort uniform style across observations. This meta idea of trying to identify learning outcomes and learning success while avoiding confounding factors is an theme I found very interesting that spanned many different research methods covered.
It seems that in informal learning environments, the most prominent research method mentioned is self-reports by patrons. In the particular case of museums, these patrons largely include families, school classes, individuals, teen groups, etc. They evaluate exhibits qualitatively through commenting on their personal experiences and revelations. This is also a great way to gauge whether learning has happened. When self-reporting, the most available information, the bits of experience that stuck the most, are what people were most surprised about. That surprise is good evidence of learning, a shift in their knowledge. It is a mark that one's beliefs were not in accordance with the exhibit, and that the exhibit has made a lasting impact. These self-reports works hand in hand with experimental studies to compare the effectiveness of control conditions versus conditions that learning scientists want to test, i.e. interactiveness.
The chapter elaborated on various research methods for accomplishing impactful science learning. The research methods are divided up into strands that expand on the various aspects of scientific learning for visitors. The six strands are Developing an Interest in Science, Understanding Scientific Knowledge, Engaging in Scientific Reasoning, Reflecting on Science, Engaging in Scientific Practices, and Identifying with the Scientific Enterprise. The chapter goes on to explain each strand and their different components that contribute to learning. The most important concept in learning science from this article in my opinion is the idea of interactivity stemming from the strand Engaging in Scientific Reasoning. From my perspective, interactivity can create the most engaging learning experiences for the audience. When an exhibit becomes interactive it creates a shared space for the learner and the exhibit to exchange information. That exchange allows for not only learning and understanding to occur but a richer interpersonal experience for the learner. For example, the aquarium study by Goldowsky illustrates how an interactive experience lead to an increase comprehension of penguins’ motivations. Moreover, it is no surprise that the “doing and seeing” technique for interactivity in exhibits has been the most popular. With this level of interaction, we can see that when the learner takes a more investigative approach natural deductive reasoning leads to a more comprehensive understanding of the material as shown in the Rennie and McClaffer (2002) experiment.
The wide range of research methods needed to assess scientific learning spaces can each be most helpful to researchers when correctly applied circumstantially. Picking which method to employ will be based entirely on the researcher's goals and ultimately driven by cognitive and design principles.
For example, an informative way to begin the research process for a scientific design space could be to use a User Interview, to help them think of use-cases for the design process going onto the next iteration. A user interview in this case could also be useful, because you get to test your assumptions, whether or not your intuition on what should be the means for your goals are correct. Whatever outcome you get in this test should be used as stepping stone for the rest of your following experiments. Certain quantitative methods can be helpful in the beginning as well. A time-lapse for example, which gives you the amount of people in an area of the exhibit can help you map out the current environmental trajectory and gain insight to the average time a given person would spend trying to learn or interact with the space. Given the multifaceted nature of trying to augment learning experiences, it’s definitely important to test your assumptions before designing around them. For example, a time lapse can explain why user’s didn’t benefit from certain parts of the exhibit, if for example they didn't also invest time in a section that explained the rest.
It was noted that “Measuring the long-term impact of museum visits is problematic because of the many variables at play”, however the article did list a few research examples that were able to quantitatively assess how well people were able to remember months after going to the exhibit. Again, when choosing a method, time is moreso a factor that should impact how you design your experiment rather than a type of method. If I were going to design a experiment I would want the learning outcome to help kids become more prepared to inductively make hypotheses regarding questions of science that the museum could help them familiarize.
“Recollection seems to be supported by experiential linkages that ground abstractions in sensory experiences. It is unclear how learners draw from these experiences to assemble broader conceptual knowledge.”. To address this strand of knowledge (with all of the hypothetical time in the world), I would develop a study that tests how exciting kids are for a particular course based on their experiences that they had and initially learned from an exhibit by interacting with it. There are certain types of knowledge, like knowing when things are made, that could be better taught by having kids interact with a chronological timeline rather than through rote memorization. The exhibit could potentially tell kids to cluster the different practices that humans used that shaped the geological state of the world directly. Hypothesis to test after and assignment 2 weeks into a class about the anthropocene: The students, who had interacted and had to think critically about their knowledge about when man-made processes became commonplace, could have an easier time creating inductive knowledge about what human-made factors could have contributed to the changes in climate. Quantitative outcome: performance on assignment.
The paper discusses how informal learning spaces are intentionally designed with the user in mind. Researchers primarily use observations to provide insight with how a user is engaging with such a space. They observe the actions and emotions of children, parents, teachers, and any other users interested in engaging in a learning space. Interviews serve as an extension of observational research, as they provide key insight into what the users were thinking while engaging with the exhibit, and how they felt upon exiting the learning space. For Strand 1, developing interest in science, researchers observed that excitement, interest, and comfort were key factors in promoting interest in an exhibit. Researchers conducted observational research for strand 2, understanding scientific knowledge, to conclude that a well designed exhibit can be powerful enough to challenge preconceived notions. For example, Borun, Massey, and Lutter (1193) noted that visitors “changed their mistaken belief that gravity needs air in order to work after interacting with an exhibit showing a ball in a tube that could be evacuated” (138). Strand 3, engaging in scientific reasoning, is primarily explored through observational research conducted at physically interactive exhibits at science centers, since they support a broader range of learning spaces. The most studied group is the family unit because they make up the largest proportion of visitors at science centers. Researchers learned that visitors are engaged by experiences that offer interactivity, but the degree of interactivity matters greatly. Interactive exhibits can provide a space where additional learning and thought can occur, but participants can be confused if an exhibit overly utilizes interactivity. In this strand, doing and seeing is extremely relevant, as researchers learned that the more likely visitors were to explore an exhibit and see what happens at it, the more likely they are to gain knowledge from it. Parents can help children learn by recontextualizing knowledge gained from an exhibit by framing it in terms of personal experiences. Researchers discovered that users that question and predict what the exhibit’s outcome utilize a form of inquiry behavior that is crucial to learning. In Strand 5, engaging in scientific practices, researchers primarily viewed parent-child interactions as part of the observational evidence. They determined that parents are critical in selecting evidence and using it appropriately to justify the conclusions at an exhibit. Conversations and explanations are really important in learning, but it depends upon the prior background the user has when approaching the subject matter. In Strand 6, identifying with the scientific enterprise, observers noted that the visitor’s agenda, or the expectations the visitor has when visiting an exhibit, can impact the degree of learning they experience. Informal learning environments must ensure that their agenda coincides with the learning agenda of the users to maximize overall learning.
There are many research methods being used for informal environments that are designed for learning like museums and science centers. In this structured setting,
learning is more fluid and sporadic and elicit participants’ emotions or sensory responses to science. The research methods for this type of setting the article mentions are self-reports, surveys, before and after mind maps, observation based data collection and more. The observations provided insight into what the users were feeling during their experience at each exhibit and the outcomes.
The types of learning outcomes or evidence of learning in museums that is being reported in this chapter are divided into strands which are developing interest in science, understanding scientific knowledge, engaging in scientific reasoning, reflecting on science, engaging in scientific practices, and identifying with the scientific enterprise. After describing each, there are clear examples of design choices being made for each strand. The outcomes were much easily shown on children who get excited or surprised when learning. In parent-child interactions, we see this emotional response much clearly. Other than these qualitative responses, one obvious outcome proven popular was factual recall of the knowledge learned. The article notes, "recollection seems to be supported by experiential linkages that ground abstractions in sensory experiences. It is unclear how learners draw from these experiences to assemble broader conceptual knowledge. This is an issue for future research, which is likely to require tracking participants over time and across settings." In general, with all of these methods and outcomes, the more research that is conducted, the more clear the outcomes can be outlined. For now, we know facilitation appears to be critical to supporting reflection. However, in designed settings, this is not possible or desirable. Finding ways around this and other obstacles is where further research would greatly help.
Reading reflections, course updates and news posted here.