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Active and Engaged: Science Centers and Informal Learning

Dimensions coverIN THIS ISSUE
November/December 2005

Research into informal learning, like other types of scientific investigation, is incremental and self-referential. The process may seem opaque to observers; yet over time, consensus emerges and points to promising new avenues of exploration. The content of this issue was informed by three recent initiatives: the October 2004 commissioning by ASTC of a “brief but penetrating summary of the current status of learning in science centers and museums,” resulting in Colin Johnson’s article on page3; the November 2004 “In Principle, In Practice” conference in Annapolis, where museum directors, educators, exhibit designers, and others examined the future of museums through the lens of learning research; and the May 2005 symposium convened by the National Academies’ Board on Science Education to assess “The Status of Research on Learning Science within Informal Education Settings.” The articles here, although only a sampling of the many topics raised and discussed in these forums, offer some key insights into what we currently know about learning in museums and how that knowledge might inform our future work.

CONTENTS
• Science Centers as Learning Environments: Defining Our Impact, by Colin Johnson
• Initial and Prolonged Engagement: Resolving the Tensions, by Joshua P. Gutwill and Erik Thogersen
• Factors That Shape Vivid Long-Term Memories: Issues for Science Centers to Ponder, by David Anderson
• Informal Science Learning Resources
The Search for Learning Outcomes: Beyond the Deficit Model, by Richard Toon
• Outside the Walls: New Directions in Family Learning Research, by Kirsten Ellenbogen and Kevin Crowley
• ‘Measuring the Immeasurable': Museums and Educational Accountability, by Alan Friedman

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