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The use of questions in exhibit labels to generate explanatory conversation among science museum visitors

[journal article]

Hohenstein, Jill; Uyen Tran, Lynn

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Please use the following Persistent Identifier (PID) to cite this document:http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0168-ssoar-132437

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Abstract Research suggests that conversations at museums contribute to as well as serve as evidence for learning. Many museums use labels to provide visitors with information as well as stimulate conversation about exhibit topics. However, most studies on exhibit labels do not centre on conversations. This investigation uses a Vygotskian framework to examine the ways questions in exhibit labels can stimulate conversations in a science museum. We examined the questions and explanations that appeared in conversation occurring under three label conditions (current label, added question: 'Why is this here?', and simplified text plus question) at three exhibits in a science museum. Each exhibit (a model of a Victorian workshop, a sectioned 1959 Austin Mini Cooper, and a bowl which survived the atomic bomb in Hiroshima, Japan) was videotaped for approximately six hours in each condition. Findings based on 464 conversations at these exhibits indicated that our guiding question affected visitors' conversations; however, adding the question had different effects at different exhibits. For example, at the Mini-Cooper exhibit, people asked more open-ended questions with the question added than in the current label condition. At this exhibit there were also more open-ended questions used in conjunction with explanatory responses when the question was present. In contrast, the guiding question at the Hiroshima bowl exhibit had no effect. These results imply that it is important to consider the nature of the exhibit when designing labels that will optimally facilitate learning conversations.
Document language English
Publication Year 2007
Page/Pages p. 1557-1580
Journal International Journal of Science Education, 29 (2007) 12
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09500690701494068
Status Postprint; peer reviewed
Licence PEER Licence Agreement (applicable only to documents from PEER project)