the inclusion of a learning progression researcher fundamentally altered the design process and the goals for the exhibition: the museum experts, for instance, were more inclined to recognize smaller steps in individual understanding as appropriate goals along a pathway to fully grasping key aspects of evolution. Early research also led to a redesign of the exhibition based on a coherent narrative that brings together key ideas of evolution, such as variation, inheritance, and adaptation.

Alternatively, informal environments could differentiate themselves from the K-12 agenda by going “broad” on issues that the formal community chose to go “deep” with. In this way, informal environments could bridge the gap in teaching and learning by providing information not included in the learning progressions.

Another promising new area of study is the concept of “preparation for future learning,” which recognizes that learning experiences might not always immediately and directly lead to increased knowledge or understanding. Instead, they may prepare the learner by creating cognitive dissonance or other forms of mental preparation that enhance the learning success when the learner encounters a later opportunity to build on the original experience (such as an explanation given by a parent or a follow-up to a field trip in the classroom). This approach has implications for informal settings like museums, since the purpose of the museum visit or a school field trip may not lie in conveying specific knowledge, but to use the original experiences as a preparation for subsequent classroom instruction. The potential of using informal learning environments as a starting point for future learning in the classroom serves as a reminder that informal and formal learning are interconnected aspects of the same overarching principle: a quest for lifelong learning that allows everyone to explore the natural and built environment and grow in their knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of the world.

Science learning has the potential to cut across many platforms. Interested learners can go to an aquarium to observe sea life, go home and find more information on the topic on the Web, and watch a television program in the evening. As technology becomes more sophisticated, many ways to link museums and other designed settings to home computers or mobile devices are becoming available. People can

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement