Use of Questions in Exhibit Labels to Generate Explanatory Conversation among Science Museum Visitors

January 1st, 2007 | RESEARCH

Research suggests that conversations at museums contribute to, as well as serve as evidence for, learning. Many museums use labels to provide visitors with information as well as stimulate conversation about exhibit topics. However, most studies on exhibit labels do not centre on conversations. This investigation uses a Vygotskian framework to examine the ways questions in exhibit labels can stimulate conversations in a science museum. We examined the questions and explanations that appeared in conversation occurring under three label conditions (Current Label, Added question “Why is this here?”, and Simplified Text plus Question) at three exhibits in a science museum. Each exhibit (a model of a Victorian workshop, a sectioned 1959 Austin Mini Cooper, and a bowl that survived the atomic bomb in Hiroshima, Japan) was videotaped for approximately 6 hr in each condition. Findings based on 464 conversations at these exhibits indicated that our guiding question affected visitors’ conversations; however, adding the question had different effects at different exhibits. For example, at the Mini‐Cooper exhibit, people asked more open‐ended questions with the question added than in the current label condition. At this exhibit there were also more open‐ended questions used in conjunction with explanatory responses when the question was present. In contrast, the guiding question at the Hiroshima bowl exhibit had no effect. These results imply that it is important to consider the nature of the exhibit when designing labels that will optimally facilitate learning conversations.


(no document provided)

Team Members

Jill Hohenstein, Author, King's College London
Lynn Uyen Tran, Author, King's College London


Publication: International Journal of Science Education
Volume: 29
Number: 12
Page(s): 1557

Related URLs

full Text via ResearchGate


Audience: General Public | Museum | ISE Professionals
Discipline: Education and learning science | General STEM | History | policy | law | Technology
Resource Type: Peer-reviewed article | Research Products
Environment Type: Exhibitions | Museum and Science Center Exhibits