UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Exploring the overlap between family learning and exhibit label text at an interactive science exhibit Hall, Jennifer Anne


Visiting in family groupings, many parents and children attend museums expecting their visit to involve learning in some capacity. Families engage in learning experiences when they interact with exhibits designed by the museum. Museums are also responsible for the exhibit label text that accompanies exhibits, which can act as a key educative tool. Using a sociocultural theoretical framework, this study assumed that learning is mediated by social engagement and that a family operates as a unique community of learners. It was also assumed that learning is mediated when a group of family members engage with and respond to settings designed by the museum. In these situations families interact with exhibit label text. This study investigated the ways in which family learning was mediated by exhibit label text. Twenty seven families participated in the study, which employed an interpretive case study approach to data gathering. Each family was considered a singular case with its own unique expectations and agendas, which influenced their exhibit experiences. The exhibit experiences were investigated through an analysis of conversations between parents and children at the exhibit, during which one of four labels was on view. Pre- and post-exhibit experience interviews were conducted with parents who were asked to respond to different label text. The outcomes of this study suggest that exhibit label text can act as a very effective research tool for the identification of family’s learning agendas and experiences. Three key findings were noted: 1. Not all parents consider the same exhibit label text to be relevant to their family learning experience. 2. Parents value label text that prompts and supports their exploration of and conversation about the interactive science exhibit. 3. Parents also consider label text as a mediator of learning opportunities that extend beyond the museum visit. Further recommendations for museum educators, exhibit designers, and researchers are addressed in the concluding chapter, including suggestions for future studies about both family learning and exhibit label text.

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