Provocative Questions: Supporting Effective Dialogue about Societal Issues Informed by Human Biology in a Changing World

August 15th, 2010 - December 31st, 2012 | PROJECT

The investigators plan to design, develop and test a series of exhibit prototypes that build visitors' capacity to engage in discussions of socio-scientific issues, particularly those related to the numerous human-biology and health-related socio-scientific issues present in their lives today. The purpose of this small-scale project will be to explore the feasibility of designing un-facilitated museum exhibit experiences that engage museum visitors in activities where they recognize the components of socio-scientific arguments, evaluate them, and pose arguments of their own. The exhibit will use techniques of interactive exhibits usually applied in science museums to explore objects, phenomena, or scientific and engineering processes but the subject of this exhibit is about words and talk rather than things and physical phenomena. It is intended to give visitors practice in science thinking skills that citizens can use in listening critically, assessing arguments, and framing arguments of their own. This project will support the design, development, and testing of six unfacilitated activities that engage visitors in deconstructing, evaluating, and developing arguments related to socio-scientific issues. The investigators will develop prototypes so that labels, content, and physical design can be changed during the course of formative testing. The prototypes will be developed by members of the Museum of Science Education and Strategic Projects Departments. This project is intended to gather evidence through evaluation about whether an unstaffed exhibit can be designed to increase visitors\' capacity to engage in discussions of socio-scientific issues and health-related socio-scientific issues. The Museum of Science Research and Evaluation Department will conduct the formative evaluation of these prototypes. It will provide new evidence about the ability of museum exhibits to increase the scientific thinking skills of visitors.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Team Members

Larry Bell, Principal Investigator, Museum of Science
Christine Reich, Co-Principal Investigator, Museum of Science
Lucy Kirshner, Co-Principal Investigator, Museum of Science
Caroline Angel Burke, Co-Principal Investigator, Museum of Science


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: ISE/AISL
Award Number: 1010830
Funding Amount: 267457


Audience: Evaluators | General Public | Museum | ISE Professionals
Discipline: Education and learning science | Engineering | Health and medicine | Life science | Nature of science | Social science and psychology
Resource Type: Project Descriptions
Environment Type: Exhibitions | Museum and Science Center Exhibits