|Ph.D Student||Bamberger Yael|
|Subject||The Nature of Learning in Free-Choice Environment at|
Science and Nature Centers in Israel
|Department||Department of Education in Science and Technology||Supervisors||Professor Yehudit Dori|
|Professor Tali Tal|
|Full Thesis text|
The study aimed to characterize contextual learning during class visits to science and natural history museums. The process of learning in the museum setting is multi faceted and relies on idiosyncratic learning experience. Hence, we focused on the levels of choice provided through the museum activity and on several possible cognitive as well as non-cognitive learning outcomes in the short and long terms. In addition, we aimed to describe perceptions of teachers who accompanied class visits and to compare them to the students' perceptions.
We studied about 900 students in grades 4-8 participating in class visits to five museums. Data sources included observations, semi-structured interviews with 60 students on the day following the visit, semi-structured interviews with 20 teachers who accompanied the class visits, museum worksheets and questionnaires. Semi-structured interviews with 21 students were carried out 16 months after the visit, to investigate the long term effect of the visit.
A descriptive-interpretative methodology was adopted for analyzing the observation data. Analysis of the museum activities has yielded four levels of choice that affect learning, spanning from no choice to free choice activities. Our findings indicated that activities of limited choice, offered scaffolding, allowed the students to control their learning and enhanced deeper engagement in the learning process.
We present evidence that students expressed several learning outcomes, connected directly and indirectly to the scientific content of the visit. We stress, as well the impact of the museum visit in the long term. After 16 months, students retained details of the experience; indicated the contribution of the visit to their knowledge; and emphasized peer interactions during the visit. This highlights the significant educational values the students carry on from the informal learning experience to their lifelong journey.
The comparison between teachers’ and students' perceptions indicated a discrepancy and pointed out the current absence of and the future need for teachers' training in out-of-school learning.
The different means for data collection enabled a complementary view of class visits to science and natural history museums in Israel. We suggested type of activities that encourage effective and more complex learning, which consider the characteristics of the unique learning in museums, and recommended that museum educational staff adopt and apply the conclusions of this and previous studies regarding learning in museums. This will hopefully lead a better understanding and implementation of the potential of the school-based museum visit.