Disorientating, fun or meaningful? Disadvantaged families’ experiences of a science museum visit

Abstract

It is widely agreed that there is a need to increase and widen science participation. Informal science learning environments (ISLEs), such as science museums, may provide valuable spaces within which to engage visitors—yet the visitor profile of science museums remains narrow. This paper seeks to understand the experiences of socially disadvantaged families within such spaces. Using a Bourdieusian analytic lens, we analyse qualitative data from a small study conducted with ten parents and ten children from an urban school who visited a large science museum. Data includes pre- and post-interviews, audio recordings and visit fieldnotes. We characterised families’ experiences as falling into three discourses, as ‘disorientating’, ‘fun’ or ‘meaningful’ visits. Analysis identifies how the families’ experiences, and the likelihood of deriving science learning from the visit, were shaped through interactions of habitus and capital. Implications for improving equity and inclusion within ISLEs are discussed.

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Acknowledgments

The Enterprising Science project is funded by BP and conducted in partnership between King’s College London and the Science Museum. We extend our thanks to all the participating schools and students.

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Correspondence to Louise Archer.

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Lead Editor: A. Sharma.

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Archer, L., Dawson, E., Seakins, A. et al. Disorientating, fun or meaningful? Disadvantaged families’ experiences of a science museum visit. Cult Stud of Sci Educ 11, 917–939 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11422-015-9667-7

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Keywords

  • Diverse families
  • Museums
  • Inclusion
  • Bourdieu