Research in Science Education

, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 485-495

First online:

The effectiveness of orienting students to the physical features of a science museum prior to visitation

  • David AndersonAffiliated withQueensland University of TechnologyInstitute for Learning Innovation Email author 
  • , Keith B. LucasAffiliated withQueensland University of Technology

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This paper reports on a study in the area of informal science education in the contexts of science museums. The research focused upon two areas: first, perceived novelty and its effect on cognitive learning in year eight students visiting an interactive science museum; second, the links between exhibits which were most frequently recalled and exhibits which students later recalled as being interesting and puzzling. Results on a post-test of cognitive learning of concepts and principles associated with the exhibits suggested that students who underwent novelty reducing pre-orientation to the physical environment and had prior visitation experience learned more than their counterparts. Gender did not influence learning when perceived novelty level and prior exposure were considered. Furthermore, the most frequently recalled exhibits shared a combination of characteristics such as large physical size, prominence in the exhibit galleries, and the diversity of sensory modes that they employed. Finally, it appears that cognitive learning is likely to occur for exhibits which are most memorable.