The Right Kind of Wrong: A “Knowledge in Pieces” Approach to Science Learning in Museums


  • Pryce R. Davis,

  • Michael S. Horn,

  • Bruce L. Sherin


Research has highlighted the vast gulf that exists between experts' and novices' understandings of science, and how difficult it is to bridge this gulf. When this research is applied to the design of museum exhibits and outreach material, it becomes clear that there is a tension between being scientifically correct and communicating effectively to a broad, diverse audience. In this paper we present a new approach to thinking about science learning in museums. Drawing on decades of research from the learning sciences, we argue that being “wrong” is an inescapable part of learning, and that not all simplifications are problematic. Instead, being “wrong” involves the gradual restructuring of many fine-grained intuitive or commonsense notions that persist throughout the learning process and play an essential role in scientific expertise. We discuss the implications of adopting this approach for museum design.