Free-choice worksheets increase students' exposure to curriculum during museum visits

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Abstract

The museum visit is an important part of elementary school science teaching. However, a divide exists between teachers, who require curricular accountability, and museums, who emphasize free-choice exploration. Can a carefully constructed worksheet bridge this divide by providing free-choice exploration of curricular topics during the museum visit? In the present study, a theoretical framework was constructed to inform the design of worksheets as free-choice learning devices. This framework was used to analyze the design of an existing museum worksheet. Subsequently, curriculum-related conversations among school groups visiting a museum were monitored in groups supplied with the worksheet and in control groups without. Overall, the worksheet complied well with design criteria synthesized from the free-choice learning literature. Furthermore, the use of the worksheet increased the number and diversity of curriculum-related conversations among school groups during the visit. This study documents that the use of carefully designed worksheets may increase students' exposure to curriculum during a museum visit, and thus may help build better bridges between teacher needs and museum free-choice identities. © 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 44: 1389–1414, 2007

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