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Adult learning experiences from an aquarium visit : the on-site and longitudinal roles of personal agendas and social interactions in family groups Briseño-Garzón, Adriana

Abstract

The overall and long-lasting impact of learning science from informal situations and environments has been deeply recognised. Also, it has been acknowledged that expanding and deepening our understandings of the nature and dynamics of the learning process in the informal setting is crucial for the development and implementation of rich and enjoyable educational opportunities for all the audiences that visit such settings. This qualitative study investigates how and what the adult members of family groups learn in and from a visit to the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, by examining the role of their personal agendas and their social interactions. Using on-site and follow-up open-ended, semi-structured interviews, as well as on-site observations, parents'/guardians' perceptions about their families' experience at the aquarium were analysed. Interpretive data analysis suggests that the adult members of family groups learn as a result of the visit to the aquarium, and that their learning is cognitive, social, and affective in nature. The contact with living creatures elicits emotional responses and connections with past experiences, and promotes cognitive and affective gains in adults, who also gain awareness and understandings about their family members as a result of the collective experience. Also, personal pre-defined and emerging agendas play a significant role in the learning experience at the individual and group levels, both during the visit and longitudinally. Parents/guardians bring mainly recreation, learning and social agendas to the aquarium setting. However, multiple forces influence the construction and continuous negotiation of such dynamic agendas, such as prior experiences, and intrinsic and extrinsic factors. In the long term, adults connect their experience at the aquarium with other relevant contexts such as the home and the work place, and show evidence of long term factual knowledge.

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