Interventions in out-of-school settings have been shown in previous studies to be effectively increase students’ science knowledge and motivation, with mixed results on whether they are more effective than teaching at school. In this study, we compared an out-of-school setting in a reptile and amphibian zoo (Landau, Germany) with a sequence of classroom teaching and a control group without teaching on the topic. We compared learning at school (School) and out-of-school learning (Reptilium), which were tested in a randomized field setting with a focus on knowledge and motivation. Sixty-five elementary students participated in either the School group, Reptilium group or control group. We measured knowledge on the topics reptiles and amphibians with a newly developed two-factorial test, calibrated with item response theory, before the intervention, immediately afterwards (posttest) and 2 weeks later (follow-up). Motivation was measured immediately after the intervention. Data analyses were performed using SPSS and Mplus. We conclude that the two interventions appeared highly superior to the control group and that the out-of-school setting in the Reptilium was more effective than the school-only program. Concerning motivation, perception of choice was higher in the Reptilium than in the School group. There were gender-by-treatment interaction effects for knowledge in the posttest and follow-up, for perceived competence and for pressure/tension. Concerning knowledge, boys performed better in the School group than girls but this gender gap was not significant in the Reptilium group. Boys perceived themselves as more competent in the School group while girls reported less pressure/tension in the Reptilium group. In conclusion, encountering living animals in a formal zoo learning arrangement is encouraged in primary school since it supports self-determination (free choice), leads to higher achievement and closes gender disparities in achievement.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Adams, J. D., Gupta, P., & DeFelice, A. (2012). Schools and informal science settings: collaborate, co-exist, or assimilate? Cultural Studies of Science Education, 7, 409–416.
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.
Anderson, D., Lucas, K. B., & Ginns, I. S. (2000). Development of knowledge about electricity and magnetism during a visit to a science museum and related post-visit activities. Science Education, 84, 658–680.
Ballouard, J.-M., Provost, G., Barré, D., & Bonnet, X. (2012). Influence of a field trip on the attitude of schoolchildren toward unpopular organisms: an experience with snakes. Journal of Herpetology, 46(3), 423–428. doi:10.1670/11-118 .
Ballouard, J.-M., Ajtic, R., Balint, H., Brito, J. C., Crnobrnja-Isailovic, J., Desmonts, D., & Bonnet, X. (2013). Schoolchildren and one of the most unpopular animals: are they ready to protect snakes? Anthrozoös: A Multidisciplinary Journal of the Interactions of People and Animals, 26(1), 93–109. doi:10.2752/175303713X13534238631560 .
Bätz, K., Wittler, S., & Wilde, M. (2010). Differences between boys and girls in extracurricular learning settings. International Journal of Environmental and Science Education, 5, 51–64.
Bjerke, T., Ødegårdstuen, T. S., & Kaltenborn, B. P. (1998). Attitudes toward animals among Norwegian children and adolescents: species preferences. Anthrozoös: A Multidisciplinary Journal of The Interactions of People and Animals, 11, 227–235.
Black, A. E., & Deci, E. L. (2000). The effects of instructors’ autonomy support and students’ autonomous motivation on learning organic chemistry: a self-determination theory perspective. Science Education, 84(6), 740–756. doi:10.1002/1098-237X .
Braun, M., Buyer, R., & Randler, C. (2010). Cognitive and emotional evaluation of two educational outdoor programs dealing with non-native bird species. International Journal of Environmental and Science Education, 5, 151–168.
Braund, M., & Reiss, M. (2006). Towards a more authentic science curriculum: the contribution of out-of-school learning. International Journal of Science Education, 28, 1373–1388.
Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The ‘what’ and ‘why’ of goal pursuits: human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11, 227–268.
Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (Eds.). (2002). The handbook of self-determination research. Rochester: University of Rochester.
Deci, E. L. & Ryan, R. M. (2003). Intrinsic motivation inventory. Retrieved from http://www.selfdeterminationtheory.org/intrinsic-motivation-inventory/
DeWitt, J., & Osborne, J. (2007). Supporting teachers on science-focused school trips: towards an integrated framework of theory and practice. International Journal of Science Education, 29, 685–710.
DeWitt, J., & Storksdieck, M. (2008). A short review of school field trips: key findings from the past and implications for the future. Visitor Studies, 11, 181–197.
Dohn, N. B. (2013). Upper secondary students’ situational interest: a case study of the role of a zoo visit in a biology class. International Journal of Science Education, 35(16), 2732–2751. doi:10.1080/09500693.2011.628712 .
Euler, M., & Wessnigk, S. (2011). Schülerlabore und die Förderung kreativer Potenziale: Lernen durch Forschen und Entwickeln. Plus Lucis (Science labs and the promotion of creativity: learning by doing research and development), 19, 32–38.
Falk, J. H. (2004). The director’s cut: toward an improved understanding of learning from museums. Science Education, 88, 83–96.
Falk, J. H. (2006). Free choice environmental learning: framing the discussion. Environmental Education Research, 11(3), 265–280. doi:10.1080/13504620500081129 .
Falk, J. H. (2014). Evidence for the educational value of zoos and aquariums. WAZA Magazine, 15, 10–13.
Falk, J. H., & Storksdieck, M. (2005). Using the contextual model of learning to understand visitor learning from a science center exhibition. Science Education, 89, 744–778.
Fallik, O., Rosenfeld, S., & Eylon, B.-S. (2013). School and out-of-school science: a model for bridging the gap. Studies in Science Education, 49, 69–91.
Franke, G., & Bogner, F. X. (2013). How does integrating alternative conceptions into lessons influence pupils’ situational emotions and learning achievement? Journal of Biological Education, 47, 1–11.
Gennaro, E. D. (1981). The effectiveness of using previsit instructional materials on learning for a museum field trip experience. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 18, 275–279.
Griffin, J. (2004). Research on students and museums: looking more closely at the students in school groups. Science Education, 88, S59–S70.
Hofstein, A., & Lunetta, V. N. (2004). The laboratory in science education: foundation for the twenty-first century. International Journal of Science Education, 88, 28–54.
Hummel, E., & Randler, C. (2012). Living animals in the classroom: a meta-analysis on learning outcome and a treatment–control study focusing on knowledge and motivation. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 21(1), 95–105. doi:10.1007/s10956-011-9285-4 .
IBM Corp. (2013). IBM SPSS Statistics for Windows, version 22.0. Armonk: IBM.
Itzek-Greulich, H., Flunger, B., Vollmer, C., Nagengast, B., Rehm, M., & Trautwein, U. (2015). Effects of a science center outreach lab on school students’ achievement—are student lab visits needed when they teach what students can learn at school? Learning and Instruction, 38, 43–52. doi:10.1016/j.learninstruc.2015.03.003 .
Kisiel, J., Rowe, S., Vartabedian, M. A., & Kopczak, C. (2012). Evidence for family engagement in scientific reasoning at interactive animal exhibits. Science Education, 96(6), 1047–1070. doi:10.1002/sce.21036 .
Kubota, C. A., & Olstad, R. G. (1991). Effects of novelty-reducing preparation on exploratory behavior and cognitive learning in a science museum setting. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 28(3), 225–234. doi:10.1002/tea.3660280304 .
Lucas, K. B. (2000). One teacher’s agenda for a class visit to an interactive science center. Science Education, 84, 524–544.
Mallapur, A., Waran, N., & Sinha, A. (2008). The captive audience: the educative influence of zoos on their visitors in India. International Zoo Yearbook, 42(1), 214–224. doi:10.1111/j.1748-1090.2007.00030.x .
Marino, L., Lilienfeld, S. O., Malamud, R., Nobis, N., & Broglio, R. (2010). Do zoos and aquariums promote attitude change in visitors? A critical evaluation of the American zoo and aquarium study. Society and Animals, 18(2), 126–138. doi:10.1163/156853010X491980 .
Ministerium für Kultus, Jugend und Sport Baden-Württemberg (Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports Baden-Württemberg). (2004a). Bildungsplan Grundschule [Curriculum for primary school]. Ditzingen: Philipp Reclam Jun.
Ministerium für Kultus, Jugend und Sport Baden-Württemberg (Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports Baden-Württemberg) (Ed.). (2004b). Bildungsplan Realschule [Curriculum for Middle School]. Ditzlingen: Philipp Reclam Jun.
Muthén, L. K., & Muthén, B. O. (1998–2012). Mplus user’s guide. Seventh edition. Los Angeles: Muthén & Muthén.
Myers, O. E., Saunders, C. D., & Birjulin, A. A. (2004). Emotional dimensions of watching zoo animals: an experience sampling study building on insights from psychology. Curator The Museum Journal, 47(3), 299–321. doi:10.1111/j.2151-6952.2004.tb00127.x .
OECD. (2012). Are students more engaged when schools offer extracurrucular activities? PISA in Focus, 7, 4.1.
Orion, N., & Hofstein, A. (1994). Factors that influence learning during a scientific field trip in a natural environment. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 31, 1097–1119.
Patrick, P. G., Matthews, C. E., Ayers, D. F., & Tunnicliffe, S. D. (2007). Conservation and education: prominent themes in zoo mission statements. The Journal of Environmental Education, 38(3), 53–60. doi:10.3200/JOEE.38.3.53-60 .
Patrick, P. G., Mathews, C., & Tunnicliffe, S. D. (2013). Using a field trip inventory to determine if listening to elementary school students’ conversations, while on a zoo field trip, enhances preservice teachers’ abilities to plan zoo field trips. International Journal of Science Education, 35, 2645–2669.
Pomerantz, E. M., Altermatt, E. R., & Saxon, J. L. (2002). Making the grade but feeling distressed: gender differences in academic performance and internal distress. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94(2), 396–404. doi:10.1037//0022-0622.214.171.1246 .
Prokop, P., Özel, M., & Uşak, M. (2009). Cross-cultural comparison of student attitudes toward snakes. Society and Animals, 17(3), 224–240. doi:10.1163/156853009X445398 .
Randler, C., & Bogner, F. X. (2009). Efficacy of two different instructional methods involving complex ecological content. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 7, 315–337.
Randler, C., Ilg, A., & Kern, J. (2005). Cognitive and emotional evaluation of an amphibian conservation program for elementary school students. Journal of Environmental Education, 37, 43–52.
Randler, C., Baumgärtner, S., Eisele, H., & Kienzle, W. (2007). Learning at workstations in the zoo: a controlled evaluation of cognitive and affective outcomes. Visitor Studies, 10(2), 205–216. doi:10.1080/10645570701585343 .
Randler, C., Hummel, E., Gläer-Zikuda, M., Vollmer, C., Bogner, F. X., & Mayer, R. E. (2011). Reliability and validation of a short scale to measure situational emotions in science education. International Journal of Environmental and Science Education, 6, 359–370.
Randler, C., Hummel, E., & Prokop, P. (2012a). Practical work at school reduces disgust and fear of unpopular animals. Society and Animals, 20(1), 61–74. doi:10.1163/156853012X614369 .
Randler, C., Kummer, B., & Wilhelm, C. (2012b). Adolescent learning in the zoo: embedding a non-formal learning environment to teach formal aspects of vertebrate biology. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 21, 384–391.
Randler, C., Hummel, E., & Wüst-Ackermann, P. (2013). The influence of perceived disgust on students’ motivation and achievement. International Journal of Science Education, 35(17), 2839–2856. doi:10.1080/09500693.2012.654518 .
Rickinson, M., Dillon, J., Teamey, K., Morris, M., Choi, M. Y., Sanders, D., & Benefield, P. (2004). A review of research on outdoor learning. Shrewsbury: Field Studies Council.
Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American Psychologist, 55(1), 68–78. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.68 .
Scharfenberg, F.-J., & Bogner, F. X. (2011). A new two-step approach for hands-on teaching of gene technology: effects on students’ activities during experimentation in an outreach gene technology lab. Research in Science Education, 41, 505–523.
Scott, C. M., & Matthews, C. E. (2011). The “science” behind a successful field trip to the zoo. Science Activities Classroom Projects and Curriculum Ideas, 48(1), 29–38. doi:10.1080/00368121.2010.496814 .
Seybold, B., Braunbeck, T., & Randler, C. (2014). Primate conservation—an evaluation of two different educational programs in Germany. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 12, 285–305.
Starosta, B. (1992). Naturwissenschaft — Schüler — Unterricht. Beiträge zur Didaktik der Biologie der Chemie und der Physik (Science - students - instruction. Contributions to the teaching of biochemistry and biophysics). 3. In H. Maier (Ed.), Regensburger Beiträge zur Fachdidaktik: Vol. 3. Naturwissenschaft — Schüler — Unterricht. Beiträge zur Didaktik d. Biologie, d. Chemie u. d. Physik (Regensburger teaching methodology papers: Vol. 3. Science - students - instruction. Contributions to the teaching of biochemistry and biophysics). Bochum: Brockmeyer.
Wilde, M., Bätz, K., Kovaleva, A., & Urhahne, D. (2009). Überprüfung einer Kurzskala intrinsischer Motivation (Testing a short scale of intrinsic motivation) (KIM). Zeitschrift für Didaktik der Naturwissenschaften (Journal of Science Teaching Methods), 15, 31–45.
Wilde, M., Hußmann, J. S., Lorenzen, S., Meyer, A., & Randler, C. (2012). Lessons with living harvest mice: an empirical study of their effects on intrinsic motivation and knowledge acquisition. International Journal of Science Education, 34(18), 2797–2810. doi:10.1080/09500693.2012.654829 .
We are grateful to the students, parents, teachers and the principal of the Friedrich-Ebert-Schule in Mannheim who made this study possible.
About this article
Cite this article
Wünschmann, S., Wüst-Ackermann, P., Randler, C. et al. Learning Achievement and Motivation in an Out-of-School Setting—Visiting Amphibians and Reptiles in a Zoo Is More Effective than a Lesson at School. Res Sci Educ 47, 497–518 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11165-016-9513-2
- Primary school students
- Field trip
- Science Education