Exchanges like these indicate that the mystery surrounding the tank was worthy of conversation and discussion. According to Allen, this feature of the exhibit “facilitated learning in an unexpected but fruitful manner.” Allen found that conceptual talk, which is the kind of evidence of learning that museum professionals want to see but often don’t, occurred at 56 percent of the exhibit types.
Also in this category is metacognition, the ability to reflect on one’s own knowledge and learning. These kinds of comments reveal what visitors notice as they peruse an exhibit and how their observations confirm or contradict what they already know. At the Frogs exhibition, a video piece called “Mealtime,” which showed frogs catching and eating their food, caught visitors by surprise, leading to such comments as, “I never would have believed …” or “I didn’t realize they got them with their tongue.”
This kind of talk refers to connections made between an exhibit and a personal association (“Yeah, my grandmother loves to collect stuff with frogs all over it”); an exhibit and prior knowledge (“In Florida, the dogs eat poisonous toads and die”); and between two exhibits (“That’s what I said. It eats anything as long as it fits in its mouth,” referring to the label from a previous part of the exhibition).
At this particular exhibition, the most frequent personal connection was made after viewing a graphic representation of a leaf from the children’s book Frog and Toad Are Friends. Visitors said the following:
Visitor 1: Oh, this is, oh, look, it’s Frog and Toad. I remember that one. That was your favorite book when you were little.
Visitor 2: ‘Cos here’s the story, Mom. I used to have these books a lot.
Visitor 1: Oh you’re right. Oh, you’re exactly right. That’s Toad and Frog.
This category encompasses two areas—how to use and manipulate an exhibit (“Okay go down to the water … and then go towards the back. See that little leafy type thing?” [which was said when someone was searching for the leaf frog]) and expressions of evaluation of one’s own or partner’s performance (“I don’t think I did a very good job of it.”).
Although this kind of talk was heard relatively infrequently throughout the exhibition, the one