Science museums and science centres are informal science institutions which are the effective channels that have been used as the tools to communicate science and technology to the public. These informal educational institutes provide various positive impact such as the memorable learning experiences influence to attitude and behaviour, the increasing of visitor’s knowledge and understanding of science, the personal and social inspirations which can enhance inter-generation learning, and the impact on encourage trust and understanding between the public and the scientific community (ECSITE 2009). Museums became the places for everyone including families, the American Association of Museum reported that in the US the majority group visited the museum in 2006 was the family group (Borun 2008). Parents usually bring their children to museums for many reasons, learning something new, relaxation, and entertainment (Laetsch et al. 1980; Wolins 1989; Falk & Dierking 1992b; Falk & Dierking 2000)
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There are long literatures of researches which study about family visitor learning in Museum and informal setting institutes in the Western culture. Many research attempt to understand the social behaviour and improve the learning experiences for the family visitors by investigated visitors’ attention and participation (KORAN et al. 1988; Judy Diamond 1986; McManus 1987; Falk 1991). For example, the research on the influence of children on the viewing behaviour of family groups by Judy Diamond in 1979 in Falk and Dierking, 1992 indicated that families tend to understand exhibition by trial and error and discussing among the group without reading instructions. Children likely to interact with exhibition more than their parents who tend to learn by looking for the information (Sherman Rosenfeld 1982).
There are also broad perspectives of how people learning in the museums. For understanding of the museum experience Falk and Dierking, described that the physical, personal and sociocultural context are the important elements which affect the learning outcome in a design setting in exhibition and museum’s gallery (Falk & Dierking 1992b; Falk & Dierking 2000). Science Museum and Science Centre have a strategy in using many kinds of media to communicate the scientific concepts to their visitors such as text panels, multimedia panels, interactive exhibits, hands-on exhibits, and activities. In 1997 the study and development of family friendly exhibition by Minda Borun introduced seven concepts of the successful multi-ages users of interactive science exhibition in order to support the family learning in museum which are Multi-sided, Multi-user, Accessible, Multi-outcome, Multi-modal, Readable and Relevant (Borun & Dritsas 1997; Borun et al. 1997; Borun 2008).
In Thailand many people believe that science is very difficult and feel alienate from their life. The main customers of the informal science institutions in Thailand are students and families (NSM year report 2005-2009). In 2005 Aphiya’s research on the public interest and awareness of science and technology in Thailand found that families prefer to spend their leisure time at shopping malls rather than museums. This might be result from the difficulty of accessibility to the exhibition by family groups. Moreover, the family groups might believe that their children could gain more knowledge from a science museum when they visit the museum along with their school class. However, there are very few researches and understanding about how people learning science through the exhibition and how to enhance the family learning behaviour in science museum in Thailand.
Interestingly, museums offer free-choice learning experiences and motivate visitors to interact and gain the scientific concepts by themselves, most of the exhibitions in science museums or science centres are designed for a wide range of visitors from individual to multi-ages users. However, exhibitions might not usually provide enough support to promote a parent and child to learn scientific concept from an exhibition together (Borun 2008). It is a worthwhile study to research and develop tools that could encourage the family audiences learning science through science exhibitions. This research will conduct based on multidisciplinary areas of social science, science communication, and a science education framework.
This study attempts to accumulate body of knowledge to understand the process in exhibition’s tool development which relates to existent knowledge about media development, visitor interactions, and visitor behaviour. This could enhance the family users to participate, interact, and learn science from exhibits in museum gallery. The three exhibit’s tools in this research consist of a label written for specific group, an interactive instruction screen, and a video instruction.
Text label is one of the most important elements in the exhibition. Visitors usually learn from label. In the Natural History Museum and Zoo the critical element of intent and engagement is narrative, particularly from panel (Stocklmayer et al. 2010). Many exhibitions use the mini text label not only provide their content, but also attracts visitors by their variety characteristics. Moreover, some research in exhibit’ labels indicated that the using of questions in label can facilitate the visitor’s behaviours of learning conversation and engage them to the exhibitions. (Hohenstein & Tran 2007)
The engagement with the science exhibition has been recognised as very important in learning science. Science exhibits themselves, usually, attract visitors to engage with, but they may not support visitors to learn (Haywood & Cairns 2006). Touch screen instruction allows visitors engage with information of the exhibit. It might enhance families learning science from the exhibits.
Miensner, 2007 applied the video tracking to observe the types of children’s behaviours in the interactive science exhibition from six science and discovery centres in the UK and US. She indicated that there were three main interactions between the young visitor and interactive exhibits which are imitation, performance, and explanation (Meisner et al. 2007). The study introduced a video instruction add-on interactive science exhibits. The video instruction provides the information about how to play or interacts with the exhibit and also delivers the explanation about the application of the scientific concept that exhibits in the form of video and text only. This kind of novel media has been applied at Launch Pad, the interactive science exhibition at Science Museum in London. In this study, the video instruction and explanation will be invented to enhance families learning with the expectation that family visitors might imitate directly from video and obtain the scientific messages.
This research focuses on the study and development of three types of media tailored to science exhibitions in museum galleries, which aims to facilitate families learning scientific concepts from the existing science exhibits. This could enhance their learning process during their visit informal science institutions without the necessity to transform the whole structure of exhibits only for support family groups.
Purposes of the study
The purposes of the study are summarized as follows:
To develop exhibition’s tools base on informal learning theories that enhance families learning science in science museums.
To study the effectiveness of the science exhibition’s tools based on enhancing family learning science in science museums.
To evaluate and find out that how much the tools enhance family learning science from science exhibits in science museums and are there any differences in relationships between tools and particular kinds of exhibits.
Scope of the study
This study will work toward the research questions by using two mains methodological approaches, quantitative and qualitative. The study will design, test and revise prototypes of the three tools, mini text label, VDO instruction, and touch screen label. This research will use questionnaires, interview, and observation of families’ action and interactions in order to gather the empirical data.
The research study will examine and develop three types of the exhibition tools, which used to convey messages from the basic science exhibits to family groups (case study on National Science Museum Thailand), based on how the tools enable learning science through Thai family groups in order to enhance family learning science in science museum. The family in this research are defined as a multi-generational visiting unit with at least one adult over the age of 19 and one child between ages of 9 – 12 years
The subjects of this study are families who visit National Science Museum Thailand. The population is limited to 100 families, fifty groups for experiment and the rest for the control groups (Borun & Dritsas 1997)
Which types of the tools, mini text label, VDO instruction, and touch screen label have ability to encourage and enhance family groups learning science in science museum?
How these tools enable learning science for family groups?
How to design the exhibits’ tools to encourage and enhance family learning science in science museum?
Significance of the study
This study will deepen the knowledge of science education and science communication that is applicable. The consequence of this finished research study will result in the development of the distinct tools that enable family learning science and accessibility to science exhibits in science museum. The research can be used as a model not only for other science museums and science centres, but also for other kind of museums to communicate their contents to multi-ages visitors effectively by using the beneficial result from this research to develop the tools which support their exhibition.
The tools can enhance and encourage multi-ages groups access to the exhibits then gain more benefits from the exactly goals of the exhibition. This effective informal learning will over time hopefully develop positive attitudes toward science and will create a society more attuned to the acceptance of a scientific approach.
Framework of the study
The framework of this study has evolved as a consequence of the literature review in the field of informal education in science and technology, physical and social context as a family visitor in museum, narrative, meaning of media in museum and Thai’s family perception in science education. In Figure 1 the development of the three exhibition tools is based on informal learning in science education, narrative and media interpretation. The hypothesis is that families who utilize the exhibition tools for their instruction during interact with science museum exhibitions represent the increasing of the accessibility to science exhibitions, the understanding of science contents in exhibits and a positive attitude toward science.
Family group (Parent-Child)
Design: three exhibition tools base on narrative and media meaning in science communication, physical context and social context in museum
Mini text label
Science Education ( informal)
Narrative and media development
Accessibility and difficulty to exhibits’ content
Important of basic science
Parent-Child’s awareness toward basic science
Tracking, video tracking
Science achievement (Family’s learning science)
Family better understanding of basic science
FIGURE 1: FARMWORK OF THE STUDY