Art learning in uk

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Lynn D. Dierking, John H. Falk, Section Coeditors

Using the Contextual Model of Learning to Understand Visitor Learning from a Science Center Exhibition
JOHN FALK, MARTIN STORKSDIECK Institute for Learning Innovation, Annapolis, MD 21401, USA Received 13 May 2003; revised 14 December 2004; accepted 21 January 2005 DOI 10.1002/sce.20078 Published online 18July 2005 in Wiley InterScience (
ABSTRACT: Falk and Dierking’s Contextual Model of Learning was used as a theoretical construct for investigating learning within a free-choice setting. A review of previous research identified key variables fundamental to free-choice science learning. The study sought to answer two questions: (1) How do specific independent variablesindividually contribute to learning outcomes when not studied in isolation? and (2) Does the Contextual Model of Learning provide a useful framework for understanding learning from museums? A repeated measure design including interviews and observational and behavioral measures was used with a random sample of 217 adult visitors to a life science exhibition at a major science center. The data supportedthe contention that variables such as prior knowledge, interest, motivation, choice and control, within and between group social interaction, orientation, advance organizers, architecture, and exhibition design affect visitor learning. All of these factors were shown to individually influence learning outcomes, but no single factor was capable of adequately explaining visitor learning outcomesacross all visitors. The framework provided by the Contextual Model of Learning proved useful for understanding how complex combinations of factors influenced visitor learning. These effects were clearerest when visitors were segmented by entry conditions such as prior knowledge and C 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Sci Ed 89:744 – 778, 2005 interest.

Correspondence to: John Falk;

2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.



Few activities will be more important to 21st century free-choice science education institutions in general and science museums1 in particular than meaningfully understanding the learning they facilitate. Whereas only a few years ago it could be fairly stated that it was unclearwhether visitors to museums truly learned (Crane, 1994; Falk & Dierking, 1992, 1995), today the same could not be said. A myriad of studies now clearly document the range of learning that museums afford (cf. Falk, 1999; Leinhardt, Crowley & Knutson, 2002; Rennie & McClafferty, 1996). However, a full understanding of the complexities of the processes of learning that occurs during a visit to afree-choice setting remains elusive. Historically, much of the research on learning in museums was a-theoretical. This is changing; currently a variety of theoretical frameworks have been proposed for understanding the nature of learning from museums, two of these are particularly prevalent--sociocultural models based on the work of Vygotsky (cf. Leinhardt et al., 2002; Martin, 2004) and the ContextualModel of Learning as proposed by Falk and Dierking (1992, 2000). The work described here was based on the latter of these two models. Contextual Model of Learning Falk and Dierking (2000) put forward the Contextual Model of Learning as “a device for organizing the complexities of learning within free-choice settings.” The Contextual Model of Learning is not a model in its truest sense; it does notpurport to make predictions other than that learning is always a complex phenomenon situated within a series of contexts. More appropriately, the “model” can be thought of as a framework. The view of learning embodied in this framework is that learning can be conceptualized as a contextually driven effort to make meaning in order to survive and prosper within the world; an effort that is best...
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