Research on the elements of learning discussed in this chapter—expertise development, building on prior knowledge, and metacognition—suggests that program and exhibit developers should provide multiple ways for learners to engage with concepts, practices, and phenomena in a particular setting. In addition, the experiences should prompt and support participants to connect their learning experiences to their own prior knowledge, experiences, and interests. Because learners are diverse, bringing to the informal setting a range of interests and motivations, it is important to create an experience that is multifaceted, interactive, and developed in light of science-specific learning goals.

Continuing with our discussion about how research informs practices in informal settings, Chapter 4 focuses on the social aspects of learning. By designing environments that encourage conversation and support mediation among learners, informal science educators can help their visitors gain deeper knowledge from even one experience and enjoy themselves more in the process.

Things to Try

To apply the ideas presented in this chapter to informal settings, consider the following:

  • Think about the balance between interactive and noninteractive learning opportunities in your setting. Research supports interactivity as a way to engage visitors and audiences with the informal experience and support various modes of learning. Does interactivity support the learning goals of your setting? If so, are there relatively simple, inexpensive ways to make some of these experiences more interactive?

  • Consider how the research discussed in this chapter could help inform program or exhibit design. For example, are there ways to provide more pathways to learning in your setting? Are prompts, such as labels, signs, and audio guides, available? Are there opportunities to support and encourage learners to extend

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