• Specific bibliography on science museology
In an investigation of seven different scientific inquiry activities
on visitors' understanding of the science underlying an interactive
exhibit, Allen found that the interpretation activity was the
most effective in facilitating visitors' understanding and the
prediction activity was the least effective.
Allen, S. (1997). Using scientific inquiry activities
in exhibit explanations. Science Education, 81, 715-734.
Year Eight students who underwent novelty-reducing pre-orientation
to the physical environment of an interactive science museum and
had prior experience visiting the museum learned more than their
counterparts. Exhibits most frequently recalled shared a combination
of characteristics such as large physical size, prominence in
the exhibit galleries, and diversity of sensory modes employed.
Anderson, D., & Lucas, K. B. (1997). The effectiveness
of orienting students to the physical features of a science museum
prior to visitation. Research in Science Education, 27, 485-495.
Students prefer the freedom of social interactions during a visit
to a zoo or museum, and identified the importance of companions
who allow for sharing of information and experiences.
Birney, B. (1988). Criteria for successful museum and
zoo visits: Children offer guidance. Curator, 31, 292-316.
Visitors at a science museum discovery space were most attracted
to exhibits with concrete presentations, holding power was highest
for exhibits with high interaction and concrete presentation,
and engagement levels were highest for high interaction exhibits.
Boisvert, D. L., & Slez, B. J. (1995). The relationship
between exhibit characteristics and learning-associated behaviors
in a science museum discovery space. Science Education, 79, 503-518.
Seven characteristics (including multi-sided, multi-use, accessible,
multi-outcome, multi-modal, readable, and relevant) were identified
as related to successful family learning exhibits.
Borun, M., & Dritsas, J. (1997). Developing family-friendly
exhibits. Curator, 40, 178-188.
“What each individual child gained from the experience
is unknown, but observation shows that a high proportion of the
interaction with exhibits was what the designers had intended.
So - judged as a learning environment – the center provided
a context that motivated encouraged meaningful behavior and social
interaction was pleasurable, and held the potential for learning
scientific facts and principles.” pg. 32
Carlisle, R. (1985). What do school children do at a science
center? Curator, 28 (1), 27-33
Teachers did not specifically prepare students for a visit to
a discovery center of natural history and exhibited formal school
behaviors in the informal environment. Students manipulated a
variety of objects with and without teacher assistance; however,
teachers who initiated hands-on experiences had students who were
engaged in a variety of activities for greater lengths of time.
Cox-Petersen, A. M., & Pfaffinger, J. A. (1998). Teacher
preparation and teacher-student interactions at a discovery center
of natural history. Journal of Elementary Science Education, 10,
“The findings from this study support the contention that
visitors can and do acquire both factual and conceptual information
as a consequence of relatively brief interactions (on the order
of 2-5 minutes) with clusters of related science exhibits; and
this learning can be facilitated by explicitly and repeatedly
displaying the conceptual messages to be communicated.”
Falk, J.H. (1997). Testing a museum exhibition design
assumption. Science Education, 81 (6), 679-687.
Placing children in an extremely unfamiliar setting may cause
sufficient stress to block any meaningful learning experience.
Falk, J.H., Martin, W., and Balling, J.D. (1978). The
novel field trip phenomenon: Adjustment to novel settings interferes
with task learning. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 15,
“The early-elementary-school field trip recollections of
9, 13, and 20+ year old individuals were virtually identical in
the categories of items and/or experiences recalled. These findings
strongly suggest that museum field trips – regardless of
type, subject matter, or nature of the lessons presented –
result in highly salient and indelible memories. These memories
represented evidence of learning across a wide array of diverse
topics.” p. 216. School trips to museums and other informal
environments promote long term recall. 80% of children and adults
could recall three or more specific areas linked to a school trip;
many of these responses related specifically to content.
Falk, J.H. and Dierking, L.D. (1997) School field trips:
Assessing their long term impact.Curator, 40 (3), 211-218
Teachers who participated in a year-long research endeavor with
local ecologists had increased self-perceptions about science
resulting from their authentic practice of science and from the
connections to the scientists’ culture.
Falk, J. H., & Drayton (1997). Dynamics of the relationships
between science teachers and scientist in an innovative mentorship
collaboration. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American
Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL.
“We have described the science learning process via the
exhibit as an experiential, exploratory and explanatory process.
The users first undergo an experience in which they can actively
participate; then they give meaning to the experience through
their own interpretations and explanations.” pp. 47-48
Feher, E. (1990). Interactive museum exhibits as tools
for learning: Explorations with light. International Journal of
Science Education, 12 (1), 35-49
Teachers can increase the potential for cognitive and affective
learning in museums by planning structured activities before and
after field trip visits.
Finson, K. D., & Enochs, L. G. (1987). Students’
attitudes toward science-technology-society resulting from a visit
to a science-technology museum. Journal of Research in Science
Teaching, 24, 593-609.
A critical incident approach is most helpful in analyzing the
learning that takes place in student groups.
Gilbert, J., & Priest, M. (1997). Models and discourse:
A primary school science class visit to a museum. Science Education,
In a study of science museum exhibit preferences of upper elementary
children and adults, girls were more likely than boys to use puzzles
and exhibits focusing on the human body and boys were more likely
to use computers and exhibits illustrating physical science principles.
Greenfield, T. A. (1995). Sex differences in science museum
exhibit attraction. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 32,
Most teachers studied during a museum trip did not prepare students
for the trip, used task-oriented teaching practices, and made
little effort to link school topics to those topics encountered
during a museum visit.
Griffin, J., & Priest, M. (1997). Models and discourse:
A primary school science class visit to a museum. Science Education,
By reducing the novelty effect, on-task exploratory behavior
increases and greater cognitive learning occurs.
Kubota, C. A. and Olstad, R. G. (1991). Effects of novelty
reduced preparation on exploratory behavior and cognitive learning
in a science museum setting. Journal of Research in Science Teaching,
Affective learning is a poorly understood phenomenon and objective-setting
and evaluation for learning in the affective domain are often
neglected in educational programs.
Meredith, J. E., Fortner, R. W., & Mullins, G. W.
(1997). Model of affective learning for nonformal science education
facilities. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 34, 805-
In an assessment of learning of elementary teachers in three
different informal environ-ments— a science center, wildlife
refuge, and a zoological sanctuary – teachers’ conceptual
development and understanding were greatly enhanced.
Neathery, M. F. (1998). Informal learning in experiential
settings. Journal of Elementary Science Education,10, 36-49.
Modeling effective field trip strategies in preservice teacher
education programs promotes both the learning of effective field
trip practices and the likelihood of taking field trips during
their first year of teaching.
Olson, J. K., Cox-Petersen, A. M., & McComas, W. F.
(in press). The inclusion of informal environments in teacher
preparation. Journal of Science Teacher Education.
“Field trips to informal science settings produce beneficial
outcomes when the trips are undertaken with a purpose in mind,
students are prepared to profit from the visit, and the novelty
of the event has been minimized.” pg. 124 “ . . .
a zoo visit can be an important learning experience for students
in the context of formal learning if their teachers are adequately
briefed about the topic and opportunities for learning that can
be found at the informal science setting.” pg. 139
Smith, W.S., McLaughlin, E., & Tunnicliffe, S.D. (1998).
Effect on primary level students of inservice teacher education
in an informal science setting. Journal of Science Teacher Education,
9 (2), 123-142.
In an investigation of the effects of a six-week extracurricular
hands-on science program using portfolio artifacts, inquiry-guided
exploration, and socially assisted learning on interest and learning
about biology in third, fourth, and fifth graders, there were
significant increases in science interest and improvement in problem-solving
skills. Girls had more positive attitudes about science and higher
problem-solving skills than boys.
Paris, S. G., Yambor, K. M, Packard, B., Wai, L. (1998).
Hands-on biology: A museum-school- university partnership for
enhancing students’ interest and learning in science. Elementary
School Journal, 98, 267-288.
Novel environments are poor settings for imposed task learning
when compared with familiar settings.
Rice, K. and Feher, E. (1987). Pinholes and images: Children's
conceptions of light and vision.Science Education, 71(4): 629-639
In a study describing childrens’ interactions with exhibits
and each other in a school-based, science-focused mini-museum,
children appeared to make some gains in their learning and scientific
skills and processes, with the largest gains made in the development
of positive attitudes towards science.
Rix, C., & McSorley, J. (1999). An investigation into
the role that school-based interactive science centres may play
in the education of primary-aged children. International Journal
of Science Education, 21, 577-593.
The more prior knowledge a visitor has, the more they will learn
at a museum.
Shettel, H.H., Butcher, M., Cotton, T.S., Northrup, J.
and Slough, D.C. (1968). Strategies for determining exhibit effectiveness.
Pittsburgh: American Institutes for Research.
Students exhibited greater cognitive learning with structured
docent tours but exhibited more positive attitudes when they participated
in a less structured lesson led by the classroom teacher.
Stronck, D. R. (1983). Comparative effects of different
museum tours on children’s attitude and learning. Journal
of Research in Science Teaching, 20, 283-290.
Teachers who participated in physical science workshops coupled
with science exhibits patterned after those of the Exploratorium
increased their confidence and competence in understanding science
and delivering inquiry-based science instruction. These teachers
continued to develop exhibit-like props in their classrooms for
their students to investigate scientific phenomena.
Sukow, W. W. (1990). Physical science workshops for teachers
using interactive science exhibits. School Science and Mathematics,
Pre-trip tasks of site orientation and content preparation before
an outdoor field trip affected students’ task behavior at
Orion, N., & Hofstein, A. (1994). Factors that influence
learning during a scientific field trip in a natural environment.
Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 29, 1097-1119.
In a comparison of conversations generated by elementary school
groups at animatronic animal displays in several free choice environments,
it was found that moving animal models in themselves are insufficient
to induce many visitors to talk about them in other than a superficial,
Tunnicliffe, S. D. (1999). It’s the way you tell
it! What conversations of elementary school groups tell us about
the effectiveness of animatronic animal exhibits. Journal of Elementary
Science Education, 11, 23-37.
Findings supported by multiple studies: In novel settings, children
often devote more mental energy to familiarizing themselves with
the new environment than they devote to the lesson being taught.
Falk, J.H. (1983). Time and behavior as predictors of
learning. Science Education, 67(2), 267-276.
Martin, W.W., Falk, J.H., and Balling, J.D. (1981). Environmental
effects on learning: The outdoor field trip. Science Education,
Not only is it important to familiarize students with the field
trip setting, sharing the instructional objectives with students
is important to help them focus on intended learning activities.
Schibeci, R.A. (1993). Evaluation of the educational benefit
of the "Sports Works" exhibition at Scitech Discovery
Center Science. Education International, 4(1), 22-25.
Koran, J.J. and Baker, S.D. (1979). Evaluating the effectiveness
of field experience. In M.B. Rowe (ed.), What Research Says to
the Science Teacher, No. 2. (pp. 50-67). National Science Teachers'
Association, Washington DC.
Wiley, D. and Humpheys, D. (1985). The geology field trip in ninth-grade
earth science. Journal of Geological Education, 33, 126-127.
Comments and Recommendations Related to Learning in Informal
/ Free Choice Environments such as Science Museums The National
Science Education Standards should be used as a mechanism for
bridging formal and informal science education. Based on a review
of the educational effectiveness of science museums, they found
that specific science content from the Standards is outlined as
potentially useful in informal settings for increasing student
Hofstein, A., Bybee, R. W., Legro, P. L. (1997). Linking
formal and informal science education through science education
standards. Science Education International, 8, 31-
Following an examination of craft knowledge and research-based
literature of science learning, the author described informal
science education programs and discussed implication for science
teaching, focusing on the importance of such learning for children
and inservice and preservice teachers. She proposed a model for
enhanced school/information science education and school-level
Ramey-Gassert, L. (1997). Learning science beyond the
classroom. Elementary School Journal, 97, 433-450.
Rennie and McClafferty (1995) synthesized educational research
about learning in interactive science and technology centers,
museums, aquaria, and zoos, and distilled from it guidelines for
science teachers to ensure that class visits enhance the learning
for their students.
Rennie, L. J., & McClafferty, T. (1995). Using visits
to interactive science and technology centers, museums, aquaria,
and zoos to promote learning in science. Journal of Science Teacher
Education, 6, 175-185.
Rennie and McClafferty (1996) reported on the interactive science
center and its history over the last four decades. They recommend
the use of cross-site studies to develop a model of learning in
Rennie, L. J., & McClafferty, T. P. (1996). Science
centres and science learning. Studies in Science Education, 27,