Students–exhibits interaction at a science center

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Abstract

In this study we investigate students' learning during their interaction with two exhibits at a science center. Specifically, we analyze both students' procedures when interacting with exhibits and their understanding of the scientific concepts presented therein. Bernstein's theory of pedagogic discourse (1990, 2000) provided the sociological foundation to assess the exhibit–student interaction and allowed analysis of the influence of the characteristics of students, exhibits, and interactions on students' learning. Eight students (ages 12ndash;13 years of age) with distinct sociological characteristics participated in the study. Several findings emerged from the results. First, the characteristics of the students, exhibits, and interactions appeared to influence student learning. Second, to most students, what they did interactively (procedures) seems not to have had any direct consequence on what they learned (concept understanding). Third, the data analysis suggest an important role for designers and teachers in overcoming the limitations of exhibit–student interaction. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 43: 987–1018, 2006

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