Parent-child conversations about evolution in the context of an interactive museum display

October 1st, 2012 | RESEARCH

The theory of evolution by natural selection has revolutionized the biological sciences yet remains confusing and controversial to the public at large. This study explored how a particular segment of the public - visitors to a natural history museum - reason about evolution in the context of an interactive cladogram, or evolutionary tree. The participants were 49 children aged four to twelve and one accompanying parent. Together, they completed five activities using a touch-screen display of the phylogenetic relations among the 19 orders of mammals. Across activities, participants revealed similar misconceptions to those revealed by college undergraduates in previous studies. However, the frequency of those misconceptions was attenuated by the level of parental engagement, particularly the frequency of turn-taking between parents and children. Overall, these findings suggest that evolutionary reasoning may be improved by the kinds of collaborative discussions fostered by interactive museum displays, so long as the affordances of those displays encourage multi-user interactions.


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Team Members

Andrew Shtulman, Author, Occidental College
Isabel Checa, Author, Occidental College


Identifier Type: issn
Identifier: 1307-9298

Publication: International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education
Volume: 4
Number: 4
Page(s): 27

Related URLs

EBSCO Full Text


Audience: Elementary School Children (6-10) | Middle School Children (11-13) | Museum | ISE Professionals | Parents | Caregivers | Pre-K Children (0-5)
Discipline: Education and learning science | Life science | Nature of science
Resource Type: Peer-reviewed article | Research Products
Environment Type: Exhibitions | Museum and Science Center Exhibits | Museum and Science Center Programs | Public Programs