The relative effects of experimenter and subject generated questions on learning from museum case exhibits

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Abstract

Fifty-five undergraduate education majors were randomly assigned to one of three treatment conditions as they entered the “walk-through” cave exhibit at The Florida State Museum. Subjects in treatment I received set induction materials directing them to enter the cave, to observe the cave carefully, and finally to read the information in five case exhibits after exiting the cave. Subjects in treatment II observed the cave exhibit, read the information in the five case exhibits, and answered two experimenter generated questions about each case exhibit immediately after reading the information in it. Subjects in treatment III observed the cave exhibit, read the information in the five case exhibits, and generated two questions about each case exhibit and answered them immediately after reading the information in each exhibit. All subjects received an immediate 20-item posttest. Seven of these items focused on observations from the “walk-through” portion of the cave exhibit. The remaining 13 items covered the information in the case exhibits. Analysis of variance indicated no significant differences between groups on the observation questions; however, a significant difference was detected for the case exhibit questions (p < 0.02). Follow up analyses indicated that subjects who answered the experimenter generated questions performed significantly better than subjects who did not answer any questions. Although no other differences were detected at the 0.05 level, the trend of results indicated that subjects who answered experimenter generated questions performed better than subjects who generated their own questions. These latter subjects performed better than subjects who read the case exhibits without answering any questions.

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