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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Exploring family learning in a Mexican science museum from a Latin American socio-cultural perspective Briseño-Garzón, Adriana


The crucial influence of socio-cultural elements on people’s ways of making sense of the surrounding world has been widely recognised. Any learning process is contextualized by the learner’s social and cultural backgrounds. However, socio-cultural issues are mostly absent in the literature pertaining to visitor studies and museum learning, which has been traditionally dominated by Anglo views emerged from research conducted in Anglo institutions. Additionally, the family environment has been acknowledged as a key aspect of any individual’s development and learning. Framed by constructivist and socio-cultural theoretical perspectives on learning, this case study research explores the role that people’s socio-cultural traits play in shaping their learning experiences at a science museum, when visiting as part of a family group. Conducted in Universum, Museo de las Ciencias, a science museum located in Mexico City, this study investigates the ways in which the members of 20 Mexican family groups learn and support each other’s learning in the context of a museum visit. The research design involves semistructured interviews as well as on-site unobtrusive observations as the principal methods of inquiry. An interpretive analysis of the data suggests that even when the current Anglo perspectives on family learning in informal settings describe in general terms the ways in which families with Mexican socio-cultural backgrounds experience a museum visit, there exist important particularities that require researchers’ and museum educators’ awareness. First and foremost, the notion of “family” requires a definition that is socio-culturally grounded, since this study’s data shows that in the Mexican context, family implies a complex net of interconnected relationships and people. The dynamics in which family members engage, as well as their affective interactions are identified as crucial elements in modeling children’s and adults’ learning outcomes. Also, the study points out the multiplicity of learning events that, often beyond the content matter presented in exhibits, family groups experience as a result of a museum visit. In particular, issues that relate to children education and rearing are discussed. Implications and recommendations for research and practice are discussed, including methodological suggestions for conducting research in culturally diverse environments.

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