motivation was effective for simple tasks, but that intrinsic motivation led to greater success on creative or complex performance tasks. Of particular relevance, Zuckerman and colleagues (1978) found that intrinsic motivation was enhanced when problem-solvers could choose the activities and amounts of time they spent on them. More recently, research on motivation for learning has emphasized a broader set of constructs in “goal-orientation theory,” which includes needs, values, and situated meaning-making processes (reviewed by Kaplan and Maehr, 2007). However, this theory has yet to be applied to informal environments.


Finally, while Strand 1 focuses primarily on arousing emotions, such as excitement, many studies have shown the importance of comfort, both physical and intellectual, as a prerequisite to learning in designed settings. For example, Maxwell and Evans (2002) link the physical environment to learning through psychological processes, such as cognitive fatigue, distraction, motivation, and anxiety, and they offer some evidence that learning is enhanced in quieter, smaller, better differentiated spaces. Physical and conceptual orientation (using maps, guides, and films) has also been shown to contribute to learners’ comfort, presumably by reducing cognitive overwhelm and allowing them to make more informed choices about what to attend to. Much of this literature is summarized in Serrell (2006) and Crane, Nicholson, Chen, and Bitgood (1994).

Strand 2:
Understanding Scientific Knowledge

There is some research demonstrating that people gain understanding of scientific concepts, arguments, explanations, models, and facts, even after single museum visits. For example, Guichard (1995) studied the effect of an interactive exhibit designed to help visitors understand the form and function of the human skeleton. The exhibit consisted of a stationary bicycle that a visitor could ride, next to a large reflecting pane of glass. When the visitor pedaled the bicycle, the exhibit was arranged so that an image of a moving skeleton appeared inside the pedaling person’s reflection. The movements of the legs and skeleton attracted the visitor’s attention to the role and structure of the lower part of the skeleton.

Even without any additional mediation, this exhibit experience seemed to transform children’s understanding. Children ages 6-7 were given an outline of a human body and asked to “draw the skeleton inside the silhouette” after the cycling experience. Of the 93 children in the sample, 96 percent correctly drew skeletons whose bones began or ended at the joints of the body; this result was in sharp contrast to the figure of 3 percent for a sample of children of similar age in a previous study who did not experience the exhibit. Even more impressively, the children’s understanding persisted over time, with

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