Scaffolding Informal Learning in Science Museums: How Much Is Too Much?

November 1st, 2013 | RESEARCH

This research follows on a previous study that investigated how digitally augmented devices and knowledge building could enhance learning in a science museum. In this study, we were interested in understanding which combination of scaffolds could be used in conjunction with the unique characteristics of informal participation to increase conceptual and cognitive outcomes. Three hundred seven students from nine middle schools participated in the study. Six scaffolds were used in various combinations. The first was the digital augmentation. The next five were adaptations of knowledge-building scaffolds. Results demonstrated that digital augmentations, posted questions, and participation in collaborative groups may be the optimal design for improving conceptual learning (content knowledge) while preserving informal participation behaviors. However, our results also showed that obtaining deeper cognitive gains such as ability to theorize only occurred in the most highly scaffolded condition in which students demonstrated much decreased informal participation behaviors. We discuss the implications of our results with respect to the broader research on improving learning in informal science learning environments.


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Team Members

Susan Yoon, Author, University of Pennsylvania
Karen Elinich, Author, Franklin Institute Science Museum
Joyce Wang, Author, University of Pennsylvania
Jaqueline Schooneveld, Author, University of Pennsylvania
Emma Anderson, Author, University of Pennsylvania


Identifier Type: issn
Identifier: 0036-8326
Identifier Type: doi
Identifier: 10.1002/sce.21079

Publication: Science Education
Volume: 97
Number: 6
Page(s): 848

Related URLs

EBSCO Full Text


Audience: Educators | Teachers | Middle School Children (11-13) | Museum | ISE Professionals
Discipline: Education and learning science | General STEM | Technology
Resource Type: Peer-reviewed article | Research Products
Environment Type: Exhibitions | Media and Technology | Museum and Science Center Exhibits | Museum and Science Center Programs | Public Programs | Websites | Mobile Apps | Online Media