Title: Learning from museum exhibits
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00102720/00001
 Material Information
Title: Learning from museum exhibits
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Ellis, James F., 1949-
Copyright Date: 1993
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Bibliographic ID: UF00102720
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
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Resource Identifier: ltuf - AJX6105
oclc - 29891613

Full Text







Copyright 1993


James F. Ellis, Jr.

The work published herein is dedicated to my wife,

Georgeann A. Ellis, and to my parents, J. Frank Ellis and

Dorothy A. Ellis.

"For the people, for education, for science"

Motto of the American Museum of Natural History, 1869

(Ramsey, 1938, p. 2)


This dissertation would not have been possible without

the support and help provided by many individuals. Foremost

in my life and in support of my pursuit of this dissertation

has been Georgeann, my wife. Without her support and

constant encouragement none of this would have been


Acknowledgement is also due to my committee and in

particular my chairman, Dr. John J. Koran, Jr., who made it

possible for me to enter a nontraditional, interdisciplinary

program and who continuously encouraged me to go beyond what

I thought were my limits of knowledge. Drs. Mary Lou Koran,

Eugene Todd, David Miller, and John Eisenberg also deserve

strong recognition for without their continuous support and

advice none of this would have been possible.

The Florida Museum of Natural History and in particular

Mrs. Betty D. Camp, museum programs coordinator, deserve my

grateful acknowledgement as well. I must also thank the

museum as well for providing me with the use of the exhibit

and Betty for.her continued interest and practical comments

as well as help in the development of outcome measures and

in data collection.- I also wish to thank Virginia Lawrence,

the museum security guard, who for days on end provided me


with tremendously invaluable information on visitor behavior

and constant support on the long days I spent at the museum

collecting the data reported in this dissertation.

Acknowledgement is also due the American College Testing

Service for providing me with copies of the ACT Science

Reasoning instrument utilized in this study.

In the end much of the deserved credit must also go to

my parents, who provided my brother and I with a rich

childhood that included uncountable visits to museums and






ABSTRACT ............

. . xi

. . Xii



Statement of the Problem
Definition of Terms ..
Importance of the Study


. . .1

. .. .. ... .

. . .12

Exhibit Characteristics

. . . . . 14


Visitor Processing Activities .......
Sequence Implications for Museums from
Cognitive Psychology.........
Sequence Implications from Museum Based
Learning Research..........
Museum Visitor Characteristics.......
Outcomes . . . . . . . . .
Perspectives Research--A Unifying Theme for
Museum Studies .............
Summary . . . . . . . . .

3 METHODOLOGY .......... . ....

Research Hypotheses ..
Main Effects ....
Two-way Interactions
Three-way Interaction
Experimental Design ..
Exhibit Conditions ...
Treatment Conditions ..
Instructional Materials
Subjects ........

. . . . . 86
. . . . . 86
. . . . . 86
. . . . . 87
. . . . . 87
. . . . . 90
. . . . 91
. . . . . 92
. . . . . 94

Measures .. .. .. .. ... .. .. .. 95
Subject Background ............ 95
Aptitudes . . . . . . . . 95
Posttest . . . . . . . . 97
General Procedures .. .. .. .. .. .. 101
Method of Analyses/Scoring .. .. . ... 102

4 RESULTS .. ... .. ... .. .. .. 104

Criterion Referenced Outcome Measure .. .. 104
Subjects--Descriptive Statistics .. .. .. 106
Aptitude Measure--Descriptive Statistics .. 112
Regression Analysis .. .. .. .. .. .. 123
Findings .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 125
Zoology Subscore (Y1) .. ... .. .. 125
Geology Subscore (Y2) . ...... .. 130
Unrelated/Other Subscore (Y3) .. . ... 133
Total Score (Y5) .............135
Mainpoints Score (Y4) .. .. ... .. 136
Zoology Free Recall Rating (Y6) . .. .. 141
Time in Exhibit (Y10) .. .. .. .. .. 144
Nonsignificant Findings .. .. ... .. 144
Hypotheses .. .. .. ... .. .. .. 145
Main Effects ........ . ..... 145
Two-way Interactions ...........147
Three-way Interaction ...........148
Review of Findings .. .. ... .. .. 149


To What Extent is Exhibit Sequence Important
in the Acquisition of Cognitive and
Affective Material in the Exhibit? .. 152
To What Extent can Learners be Influenced by
Perspective-Taking Instructions Given Prior
to Visiting an Exhibit ..........154
To What Extent do Visitor Characteristics such
as Verbal Ability, Field Dependence/
Independence, and General Science Knowledge
Interact with Learner Acquisition of
Cognitive and Affective Exhibit Outcomes? .159
Implications .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 161






AND CASES . . . . . . . . 178






J FREE RECALL MEASURE ... .. .. .. .. 191

ANSWER KEY ................193


M AFFECTIVE INSTRUMENT .. .. ... .. .. 208


REFERENCES ... ... ... ... .... .. ... 221

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .. .... .. ... .. .. 242



Table pagg

2-1 Learning Categories .. .. .. ... .. 60

3-1 Design of Study .. .. .. .. ... .. 88

3-2 Treatment Conditions .. .. .. .. . ... 93

3-3 Subscore and Total Score Correlations and
Internal Consistency Reliabilities . .. 100

4-1 Exhibit/Criterion Referenced Measure Content 105

4-2 Item Difficulty--75 Item Criterion Referenced
Measure . . . . . . . . . 107

4-3 Summary of Item Difficulties by Zoology,
Geology, Unrelated/Other and Mainpoint
Content . . . . . . . . . 108

4-4 Replies by Treatment Group to Affect Item A22 111

4-5 Gender of Subjects by Treatment Group . .. 113

4-6 Overall Unadjusted Means .. .. .. ... 114

4-7 Unadjusted Means by Treatment Conditions .. 117

4-8 Correlations between Independent and Dependent
Variables . . . . . . . . 120

4-9 Correlations between Independent Variables . 121

4-10 Variables in the Regression Model ......124

4-11 Summary of Significant Findings .. .. .. 126

4-12 Criterion Referenced Outcome Measure--Zoology,
Geology, Unrelated/Other, and Total Score--
Significant Findings ...........127

4-13 Criterion Referenced Outcome Measure--Mainpoints
Score, Free Recall Zoology, and Time in
Exhibit--Significant Findings ......128

4-14 Main Effect Mean Differences for Total Score by
Treatment . . . . . . . . 137


Figure Page

2-1 Museum Research Framework .. .. .. .. 13

2-2 Levels of Exhibit Content .. .. .. .. 25

2-3 Information Processing Framework .. .. .. 35

2-4 Enhanced Information Processing Framework . 36

2-5 Intellectual Skill Subcategories .. .. .. 61

4-1 Three-way interaction between verbal
comprehension, perspective, and sequence for
predicted Geology subscore (Y2) .. .. 131

4-2 Two-way interaction between Group Embedded
Figures and perspective for predicted
Unrelated/Other subscore (Y3) .. .. .. 134

4-3 Three-way interaction between verbal
comprehension, perspective, and sequence for
predicted Mainpoints score (Y4) . ... 139

4-4 Two-way interaction between Group Embedded
Figures and perspective for predicted
Mainpoints score (Y4) .. .. ... .. 140

4-5 Three-way interaction between Group Embedded
Figures, perspective, and sequence for
predicted Free Recall Zoology rating (Y6) .143

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



James F. Ellis, Jr.

May, 1993

Chairperson: John J. Koran, Jr.
Major Department: Instruction and Curriculum

Museums are unique settings where information,

stimulation, and experiences are provided almost entirely

through objects and their interpretative display. Visitors

are expected to come away from a museum visit with an

increase in their knowledge of objects and a change in their

interest and motivation. Museum professionals, therefore,

must not only understand, but mediate, the process of

cognitive and affective growth from the museum experience.

The problems explored in this study are the extent to

which exhibit sequence is important in the acquisition of

cognitive and affective information in the exhibit; the

extent to which visitor characteristics such as verbal

ability, field dependence/independence, and general science


knowledge interact with learner acquisition of cognitive and

affective exhibit outcomes; and the extent to which learners

can be influenced by perspective-taking instructions given

prior to visiting an exhibit. None of these questions has

been explored previously in museums; therefore, related

research is drawn upon from a variety of fields.

Regression analysis was performed with significant full

model main effects for perspective and sequence on total

score for the multiple choice recall measure (F= 6.364,

p<.05). Further analysis indicated that giving

perspective-taking instructions prior to viewing an exhibit

produces significant positive effects on learning from an

exhibit (t= 3.196, p<.05). This study also demonstrated

that viewing an exhibit in a sequential manner significantly

enhanced viewer learning from the exhibit (t= 2.174, p<.05).

Findings also support previous research indicating that

prior knowledge significantly enhances learning from

exhibits, and that lack of such knowledge may hinder both

attention to, and retention of, relevant knowledge from the

exhibit. Evidence that visitor aptitudes interact

differentially with a variety of conditions experienced

during the viewing of the exhibit is reported and discussed.

Strong evidence is presented for the development of exhibit

adjuncts from which visitors with differing ability levels

might choose in order to enhance the museum experience.



Museums and their role in the American educational and

social process are described in a general sense by Soltis

(1984), who stated,

Education is a social process larger than
pedagogy. It is carried out by all our socially
constructed means for developing social beings,
from schools and churches to museums and
television, to boy scouts and sports. Whatever
their primary functions all such institutions
educate. (p. 9)

Garfield (1989, p. 100) quoted Cartwright (1939), who

suggested that the "museum fulfills its social

responsibility" by "inciting" the visitor through exhibits

to return for further contact with the museum. Booth,

Krockover, and Woods (1982) expanded on this by stating that

a major purpose of museums is to awaken the visitors'

interest as well as curiosity and to help them to develop

some ideas on the subjects at hand. UNESCO (1986) also

suggested that the major responsibility for museums is to

broaden the rational basis of visitors' knowledge.

The idea of museums as part of the wide

characterization of educational institutions that take "part

in the shaping of human character" has been suggested by

Cremin (1977, p. 43) to have arisen in the 1780-1790s.

Cremin (1977, 1980) further traced the rise of museums as

well as botanical gardens from the early appearance of the

Charles Willson Peale museum through the early 1800s. It

was at this time that "museums, botanical gardens,

agricultural fairs and circuses" were developing for what

Cremin (1977, p. 48) suggests as various services to

"science, art and entrepreneurship" and being "almost always

educating." These historical educational links can be

further traced to the 1836 legacy of James Smithson in his

bequest to the Congress of the United States, which led to

the founding of the Smithsonian Institution. His purpose

was clearly stated--"the increase and diffusion of knowledge

among men" (Rhees, 1901). By the 1930s museums began to see

their central role as being in the area of adult education

(Garfield, 1989). This focus shifted in the ensuing years

to that of school groups and community education; however,

it was not until the early 1980s that the focus began to

shift to issues concerning aspects of museum learning

(Jensen & Munley, 1985).

Museums are also unique settings where information,

stimulation, and experiences are provided almost entirely

through objects and their interpretative display. These

museums must have their roots in their communities and

understand the visitor's reality as it is actually

experienced (Schouten, 1987). The fact that these

activities take place in such a setting puts museums at a

very special crossroad of being able to mediate between

research and general education (Wittlin, 1970).

Wittlin (1970) provided a direction or more

appropriately an interpretation of education that museum

professionals are only today beginning to rediscover.

Education in a museum must be a process wide in scope, a

"tuning" of people to their best ability to think and feel

as well as to develop a wider understanding and appreciation

for the phenomena found on this planet (Wittlin, 1970, p.

206). Schouten (1987) further stated that

museum education has grown from being an activity of
minor importance to an aspect of a museum's functions
that cannot be overlooked. In most cases it has
become, together with looking after the cultural
heritage, the main justification for the museum's
existence in the public's eyes. (p. 240)

Museums, therefore, can generally be assumed to be a

place where learning and instruction, education, or

enrichment are expected outcomes (Booth, Krockover & Woods,

1982; Falk, Koran, & Dierking, 1986; Grinder & Mc~oy, 1985;

Koran & Koran, 1986a, 1986b; Melton, 1935; Screven, 1974a,

1974b). Equally, museums are not static natural phenomena

in which exposure is thought to be enough to result in

learning and motivation. Museums as opposed to classrooms

are places where attendance is voluntary, where attending to

individual exhibits involves free choice, where the learners

are diverse in age as well as background, where content is

not necessarily structured but may be variable, and where

the social aspects may be as important to the learning

outcomes as the exhibits themselves (Koran & Shafer, 1982;

McManus, 1988). Museum professionals therefore must come

not only to understand but to mediate the process of

cognitive and affective growth from the museum experience.

The generally accepted process for exhibit design by

which the museum's "interpretive message" is formed has

included the directors, curators, designers, and more

recently the educators (Ambach, 1986; Jennings and Hansen

1987; Loomis, 1987; Shettel, 1988a, 1988b). This

interpretive message is what in a majority of situations

could be said to be at the heart of a museum's curriculum.

This curriculum is considered to include goals, objectives

in the form of learning outcomes, and a variety of

presentation strategies (Beer, 1987). Visitors are expected

to come away with an increased knowledge of the world

beginning with facts about objects and hopefully leading to

abstract ideas (Melton, 1935). Museum professionals,

therefore, design exhibits and labels and use objects both

to provide information and to introduce the museum visitor

to what are deemed "important" concepts (Kropf, 1989).

Interpretation is then a form of communication which needs

to be perceived by the visitor (Roberts, 1989). A

theoretical understanding of the relationships between an

exhibit concept structure and visitor learning is needed.

Statement of the Problem

The problems explored in this study were as follows:

(a) to what extent is exhibit sequence important in the

acquisition of cognitive and affective material in the

exhibit? (b) to what extent do visitor characteristics such

as verbal ability, field dependencefindependence, and

general science knowledge interact with learner acquisition

of cognitive and affective exhibit outcomes? and (c) to what

extent can learners be influenced by perspective-taking

instructions given prior to visiting an exhibit? None of

these questions have been explored previously in the museum,

therefore related research will be drawn upon from a variety

of fields.

The objective of this study was to clarify what

variables influence museum visitors when they are learning

exhibit concepts and processing exhibit information. In

particular, the objectives were (a) to ascertain differences

in achievement resulting from variations in orienting

information which establishes a perspective, given to

visitors before the viewing of an exhibit, (b) to ascertain

variations in achievement due to variations in the structure

of exhibit content (a relationship is present between

artifacts but must be inferred)4 (c) to ascertain variations

in achievement due to variations in sequencing of exhibit

content (there is a relationship among exhibit components

that is evident and requires movement from a beginning point

to an end point), and (d) to investigate the relationship

between visitor aptitudes--verbal ability, field dependence,

sex and educational background--and exposure to exhibits

containing structured and sequenced content.

Schwab (1974), in his discussion of educational

curricula and instruction, defined structure in relationship

to disciplines such as biology and physics. This approach

would appear to encompass much of the work in museum exhibit

design and interpretation. Structure can be viewed as "the

body of imposed conceptions which define the investigated

subject matter of that discipline and control its inquiries"

(p. 166). This would appear to be in agreement with Briggs

(1967), who defined structure in greater detail as meaning

the description of the dependent and independent
relationships among component competencies,
arranged so as to imply when sequencing can be
random or optional and when sequencing must be
carefully planned, on the basis that transfer will
be optimal in order to build up from simple skills
to more complex ones. (p. 8)

Sequencing thus is implied within this definition to be an

ordered or connected series of components that may or may

not be required to achieve a particular outcome.

Educationally, structure and sequence serve a number of

purposes that include the design of instruction (Reigeluth,

Merrill, & Bunderson, 1978). Formally, these design

considerations include textbooks, courses, laboratory

activities, etc.; whereas in museums, these considerations

should encompass the designing of exhibits, adjunct

materials (brochures, orientation information, etc.), and

other related activities such as discovery programs, guided

tours, classes, etc.

Definition of Selected Terms

For the purpose of this study the following terms are

defined in the following manner:

Aptitude. Any characteristic of the individual which

facilitates, interferes, or acts selectively with

learning (Cronbach & Snow, 1977; Koran and Koran,


Formal/Informal. Informal learning takes place in any

setting outside of the traditional schoolroom.

Formal learning takes place within the traditional

school or classroom setting. This dichotomy is a

forced one and should be seen as a continuum with

formal and informal activities taking place in a

wide range of settings including the museum as

well as schools (Bitgood, 1988; Koran &.Koran,

1988; Koran, & Shafer, 1982).

Learning. Learning has been defined as a "reorganization of

the cognitive field", "a relatively stable,

unspecified change due to experience", "a change

in behavior", and thag "cannot be accounted for in

terms of instincts, maturation, etc." (Chance,

1979, p. 13, 17).

Museum. Museums are diverse institutions where objects are

deposited/collected, stored, preserved, studied,

and exhibited. They are centers of research and

education (American Association of Museums, 1984;

Webster's, 1988; Wittlin, 1970).

Perspective. The capacity to view things in their relative

importance or the interrelation in which a subject

or its parts are mentally viewed (Webster's,

1988). For instance, homebuyers view a home

differently than the way burglars do (Anderson &

Pichert, 1978; Anderson, Pichert, & Shirey, 1983).

In this study a zoologist or geologist perspective

was provided for subjects to use while viewing the

Fossil Study Center.

Schema/Schemata. Abstract preexisting knowledge structures

that individuals bring with them. Schema theory

suggests that individuals bring with them mental

representations that are used during perception

and comprehension (Anderson, 1977, 1984; Anderson,

Reynolds, Schallert, & Goetz, 1977; Milligan,

1979; Spiro and Tirre, 1980).

Sequence. A continuous or connected series (Webster's,

1988). Beginning at a basic level and

progressively moving upward or towards some higher

endpoint. Implies some form of hierarchy (Gagne,

1968, 1970, 1985; Mayer, 1977).

Importance of the Study

This study will provide insight into exhibit design based on

what visitors need to know and do in order to learn from an

exhibit. Historically, museum studies have been done in an

effort to define or clarify who the visitor or user of

museums and their exhibits is. There is also a common

thread in most case studies--that of determining the

educational value of the museum (Loomis, 1987). Miles

(1986, p. 228) suggested that what is missing is an

"analysis of what visitors need to know and do in order to

learn" during their museum experience. Research has also

been associated with a wide range of terms, including

exhibit effectiveness, program accountability, and teaching

and learning (Shettel, 1988a, 1988b; Statement of Goals,

1988; "The audience research", 1989b; Wolf, Andis, Tisdal,

& Tymitz, 1979). In an attempt to define characteristics of

ideal museum exhibits Alt and Shaw (1984) found that unless

museum exhibits provide the visitor with a short, concise

message, the exhibit will not attract the attention of the

visitor. Winkel, Olsen, Wheeler, and Cohen (1975) in a

study of visitor orienting media found that maps and signs

and their combination were all effective in reducing

disorientation in the museum with signs being the most

effective in helping visitors. Signs in this case told

visitors about the sequences of exhibits and helped the

visitor find his/her way through the museum exhibits. Few

researchers have made any attempt to understand the

underlying learning processes that are expected from the

interaction of the visitor and the exhibit (Feher & Rice,

1985; Greenglass, 1986). In fact there is an underlying

difficulty in the profession as a whole in that there is a

lack of consensus as to what the basic aim and what the

outcome of museum education is. Furthermore J.W.

Marcellini, a zoo educator, has been quoted by Stapp (1987)

as concurring with the general impression that the museum

field in general is lacking a sufficient intellectual and

theoretical base associated with other disciplines. In a

Museum News (1989a) roundtable discussion on education,

Carolyn Blackmon suggested that if museum professionals

cannot define the museum's educational parameters, then

there is not much of a starting point for future work. A

major point of consensus, however, does appear in the area

of concept learning, as a majority of the museum literature

on exhibit design supports the idea that concepts form the

basis of exhibits. Birney (1986), in studying the

perceptions and knowledge acquisition of children from

museum and zoo exhibits, suggested that "exhibits should

contain concrete information from which abstract concepts

can be developed" (p. 37). Litwak (1989, p. 58)

acknowledged that advance organizers enhance the museum

experience and raises the questions "how much information,

located where and broken up how?". Therefore it is

imperative that in order to better understand the concept

acquisition process in a museum setting, the interaction

between the visitor and the underlying sequence and

structure components of the process of concept learning

needs to be analyzed. A theoretical base along with

practical recommendations will provide not only an

understanding of the learning process but also insights into

how museums can become more effective in enhancing the

learning process (Bloom & Mintz, 1990) and suggestions

regarding how museums can optimize learning for a variety of



The focus of this dissertation is on the interaction

among sequencing of exhibit content, visitor aptitudes, and

presentation of an orienting perspective to visitors in a

museum setting. Therefore the literature cited will be that

which either directly addresses the issue in a museum

setting or has implications for the museum educator or

designer. The structure of this review will be based on the

framework proposed by Koran and Koran (1986a) for museum

education research (see Figure 2-1). As museums are

primarily places where objects and artifacts are exhibited,

the review will begin with a review of the structure and

sequence considerations used in museum exhibit design

(Exhibit Characteristics). Exhibits are built under the

assumption that visitors will view and interact with them,

therefore Visitor Processing Activities, from both the

cognitive psychology and museum research perspective, will

be considered next. The literature review will conclude

with reported findings on Museunl Visitor Characteristics and


processing otoe
ac tiv it ies

exhibit characteristics



Figure 2-1.

Museum Research Framework. Adapted
from Bransford (1979) and Koran and
Koran (1986a) .

the Outcomes that are reported from the museum experience.

On the basis of this review, research hypotheses for this

study will then be formulated.

Exhibit Characteristics

Miles et al. (1988), in tracing the origins of the

exhibit design tradition, highlighted the fact that as early

as 1881 the tradition of objects being left to speak for

themselves was clearly in place. Objects are the tools with

which, as well as from which, the learning experience is

constructed (Caston, 1989). In fact this tradition with the

addition of "instructive-labels-and-well-selected-speies

is perhaps the most common display found in museums today

(Miles et al. 1988, p. 5). Low (1942, p. 45) suggested that

this traditional approach to interpretation has been a

"compromise between the duty felt toward scholarship and the

realization that the public needs something different." An

understanding of the effect of this compromise, however, has

not been studied in any empirical sense. The fact that

there is very little substantive information concerning the

relationship between exhibit design and museum behavior and

their influence on the visitor is well recognized (Lakota,

1975). Up until the early 1980s the study of museum

educational work has been essentially that of a "common

sense" or traditional approach. This common sense approach

suggests that the object can best be used to present both

ideas and concepts through their exhibition. Objects can

serve the purpose of informing the viewer, as well as

clarify or reinforce the concepts or ideas being presented

(Caston, 1989). The structure of this discourse at its most

basic level is suggested to lie with the object for it is a

"product of a chain of concepts--a need, an idea, a plan, a

product" (Nye, 1981, p. 8). Taborsky (1990, pp. 58-61),

however, questioned this approach in suggesting that the

meaning imparted to or by an object can be arrived at in two

ways. There is the "discursive interaction" whereby the

meaning and information is created by the act of interacting

directly with the object. The exhibit and/or object

mediates the learning that takes place. The "observation

paradigm" considers the meaning to exist in the object and

to be impartially quantifiable. The visitor is expected to

receive the information from the object in a linear intact

way and any problems that arise are to be found in the

viewer's knowledge structure. Taborsky (1990) recognized

this as the traditional scientific approach. This is the

traditional model still in use in many institutions today.

Volkert (1991, p. 47), however, suggested that this

"tradition" is changing to one of "public interaction with

exhibits and collections." This transition from observation

to discourse does not appear to significantly affect the

fundamental concept that within exhibits, there must be some

form of structure which should direct observations or about

which dialogue is to take place. This is obvious in

Volkert's (1991, p. 48) statement about exhibit "core

statements" or titles. Title or core statements "define

with precision the organizing principles of the exhibition",

"reflect the specific messages museums want to communicate

to their visitors", and "are about relationships."

The logical sequencing and organizing of exhibits and

objects into groupings with different themes, although

appearing to be a recent concern and evolution, appeared as

early as the 1930s (Miles et al., 1988). Structure and

sequencing, although not explicit in the literature of that

time period, is evident. Melton, Feldman, and Mason (1936,

p. 3) raised what is perhaps one of the earliest questions

about exhibit structure and sequence in stating that "the

assumption that the visual presentation of objects and

relationships is necessarily more effective than symbolic

presentation through the written or spoken word has no

scientific justification." They further questioned the

relationship between the ideas found in the exhibit and the

ideas that the visitor comes away with. "There is no pre-

established harmony between the ideas which the exhibit

illustrates for the scholar and the ideas it occasions in

the untutored onlooker" (Melton, Feldman, & Mason, 1936, p.


Melton (1935, 1972), in studying the relationship

between visitors and objects in art galleries, found that

objects considered to be of importance were not viewed by

the visitor when they were placed with a large number of

other objects. Melton (1935) in his report on the decrease

of interest over time during the visit suggested that this

is potentially controllable through the use of structure or

the "judicious arrangement of exhibits" so as to maximize

heterogeneity throughout the museum. He identified the

homogeneous nature of exhibits within a museum as cause for

the rapid decline in interest as the visit progressed. More

recently Caston (1989) and Wittlin (1970, p. 238) supported

the latter concern with the structure of exhibits by

suggesting that learning outcomes increased when fewer

objects were used to present a "coherent story." Taborsky

(1990) questioned this approach in suggesting that even the

object within its context (as interpreted by the museum) is

still not enough for it is the museum-mediated interaction

with the visitor that is critical, which would supposedly

include the number of objects/exhibits as a concern.

Taborsky's conclusion would seem to be supported by a

1975 study reported by Robert Lakota. He found that the way

the subject and the content of a natural history museum

exhibit are treated as well as the visitor's own subject

matter knowledge are critical. Exhibits with a lot of texts

and graphic panels have a negative influence on the visitor.

In addition, if adults are accompanied by children, Lakota

speculates that parents will not visit exhibits unless they

already know the answers to potential questions from the


children. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the museum

to provide the visitor with enough information with respect

to content and organization on the exhibit so that the

visitor can make an informed decision about attending to a

particular exhibit. It is suggested that this information

include not only the theme of the exhibit as well as the

major objectives but also information that relates the

exhibit to what the visitor already knows. Additionally,

"if there is a rational organizational plan for an exhibit

whether it is chronological, conceptual, or any other

taxonomic scheme, the basis for that organization should be

communicated directly to the visitor at the outset" (Lakota,

1975, p. 89). Lakota recognized as well that visitors who

come to the museum may be either sequential or nonsequential

learners. Although he recognized the importance of this

characterization of the visitor, he recognizes the free

choice environment of the museum in recommending that both

groups need to be provided with the opportunity to know the

order or structure of the exhibit. Lakota (1975) and Lakota

and Kantner (1976) further recommended that this orienting

information be provided at the entrance to the exhibit with

reinforcement being provided throughout the display area.

Earlier work by Winkel et al. (1975, p. vii) would also

appear to be supported, that orienting media be located at

what are called "major decision points" for the museum

visitor. Although Lakota (1975, p. 93) reported that

conceptual orientation was of "marginal" importance when

included along with other design variables such as exhibit

size, density of cases, exhibit technique, and didactic

techniques, both he and Lakota and Kantner (1976) suggested

that it may benefit both types of learners referred to

above. The importance of conceptual orientation may lie in

the relationships that the exhibit presents and more

importantly the linkages that it makes with contexts/objects

in the visitor's world. Visitors are more likely to

understand and relate to the exhibit thus demonstrating at

the least an educated perception of the exhibit. In

summarizing their research Lakota and Kantner (1976, p. 17)

concluded that "exhibits which are most effective in holding

visitor attention and promoting interaction are clearly

organized conceptually and provide an explicit context for

understanding the exhibit." They further encouraged the

linking of concepts across galleries or exhibit halls to

increase visitor interest in other areas of the museum.

However, in keeping with other evidence that homogeneity

tends to decrease interest, the authors recommend that

unusual and unexpected content or exhibit treatment be

included in order to attract as well as hold the visitor.

Isaacs (1977, p. 40) goes further in concluding that too

much structure can be "stultifying" and that "surprises

within an orderly framework are vital." Further support for

this idea is provided by Denning (1989), who reported that


the "discovery" aspects create a strong sense of excitement

and interest in the visitors. Furthermore, in his

evaluation of a computerized exhibit presentation he reports

that "any program which disappoints or frustrates the user

at the initial stages of the encounter runs the risk of

leaving the user with a negative learning impression" and in

the worst case "visitors blame themselves as the cause of

the problems" (Denning, 1989, p. 11). All of these points

are linked to the communicative effectiveness of the

exhibit, which was found to increase based on whether

visitors felt they understood the exhibit and learned from


These findings appear to be functionally useful as

evidenced by Neal (1976), who, in an exhibits building

handbook, described the use of the story board approach to

exhibit planning. In her example the board consists of

three columns. The first contains the written outline with

major topics, followed by subtopics and general information.

In the second column objects and comments about the objects

are listed. Finally, in the third column the method of

exhibit is described for each topic, subtopic, and object

combination. This organization, although not described as

such, offers a structured and sequential approach to the

exhibit topic. Labels are also described in a structural

and sequential format. Panels are suggested for the

introduction of broad subject areas and sequences. Cases

display specific objects and illustrate topics based on

their content. Case labels should then contain information

on the "idea illustrated" within the case (Neal, 1976, p.

122). Labels must be concise and limited in quantity, and

in the end the exhibit and labels combined must make the

plan the designer had in mind immediately clear to the

visitors. Additionally, the author recommends that exhibits

not contain monotonous rows or crowded cases and that the

designer remember that the visitor has a "definite range of

physical and mental powers" that are frequently forgotten.

Miles (1986) furthered the development of an exhibit

design theory based on sequence and structure by developing

a series of assumptions upon which new exhibits at the

British Museum (Natural History) were to be built. Among

them is the recommendation that the "design process start

with an analysis of what visitors need to know and do in

order to learn rather than with a scholarly analysis of the

subject matter" (Miles, 1986, p. 228). This and other

assumptions, according to Miles, rejected the underlying

behavioral objective approach which has been traditionally

used in the process of exhibit design. Results of attempts

to incorporate these recommendations appear to be mixed.

Miles reported that the recommendation on designing exhibits

based on how individuals come to know about specific

subjects is a sound basis for exhibit development; yet the

methodology to test these ideas more effectively may only

now become a reality due to the availability of

microprocessors and related computers. With respect to

objectives Miles (1986, p. 238) found that the greatest

success lies in the clear statement and communication of

what he calls "teaching points--the facts, concepts,

relationships, procedures," etc., and how they relate to

each other. The use of classical structuring based on

learning hierarchies was found to be problematic as no

exhibit could possibly include all of the needed components

as identified by the concept hierarchies that were

developed. The main idea of a structured approach, however,

does remain a strong recommendation. The use of logico-

dependency relationships as the main sequencing method

remains at the basis of the suggested design theory.

However, attempts to provide various levels of treatment

appear to have failed. Miles reported that due to the

inability of the designers to provide visitors with the

appropriate and recognizable cues for the different demand

levels of the "Enrichment Assemblies" of the exhibit, the

decision was made to reduce the intellectual level of the

entire exhibit to that of the main concept. The use of

multilevel treatments according to Miles (1986, p. 239)

"remains the biggest unsolved problem of exhibition design";

however, part of the solution is suggested. Miles reported

on the success of their supplemental published materials

(exhibit booklets). This work at the British Museum

provides the strongest evidence to date on the need for

structure and sequence in exhibits. Little evidence,

however, is provided on the process effects as well as

interactions that may take place between the structured and

sequenced exhibit and the visitor.

Miles et al. (1988), in reviewing the organization of

the intellectual content of exhibits, highlighted the need

for a better understanding of these processes. Learning is

described as the process whereby individuals add new

behaviors to their existing behavior repertoire. These

added behaviors may then provide the researcher/designer

with the evidence needed to be able to say that the visitor

knows the intended information or object provided. Miles et

al. went further in suggesting that, as often museums are

concerned with the exhibitions based on concepts and

processes, museum designers must be concerned with

understanding as well. The need for structure and

sequencing then becomes important in order to develop

understanding. Prerequisites may exist that must be

attended to in order for the individual to develop the

appropriate linkages that form the basis of understanding.

The demonstrated understanding then forms the basis of the

expression of the organization of the individual's

intellectual skills. Gagne (1970) and Miles et al. (1988)

stated that structure facilitates learning; however, this

structure in the museum setting serves both to provide the


visitor with a way to organize the information presented and

to provide forward as well as rearward wayfinding directions

through the exhibit. Although Miles et al. (1988, p. 51)

suggested that the level of understanding achieved by the

visitor is "entirely the visitor's own affair," they

recommended, as Miles (1986) did, that designers should

provide a variety of treatment levels organized around some

central "spine" with the appropriate bridging links taking

the visitor from level to level (see Figure 2-2). Structure

then can be defined as the existence of some form of

arrangement, organization, hierarchy, or pattern based on

the character of the overall concept, object, or whole


Sequence is not adequately described in the museum

literature other than through inference when authors discuss

objectives and structure. Miles et al. (1988), however,

defined sequence to be the order that is used to present

objects for viewing or the order in which activities take

place. Although sequencing is not a major aspect of their

study, Winkel et al. (1975, p. iv) in a study of orienting

behavior at the Smithsonian's National Museum of History and

Technology found that "most people could not tell whether

they were entering an exhibit hall at its beginning"!

Physical or layout problems, however, with respect to

sequencing have been identified by Melton (1935), Lakota

Figure 2-2.

Levels of Exhibit Content. Adapted
from Miles (1988) .

(1975), Miles (1986), and Miles et al. (1988). Exits,

movement patterns, other exhibits, orienting media,

lighting, social activities, etc., all play a role in the

effects of both the structure and the sequencing. If the

fundamental design is inadequate and the visitor is unable

to perceive the intended sequence and/or structure of the

exhibit, the visitor may come away with an unintended

message. Under these circumstances the visitor is likely to

either attempt to organize the exhibited information on the

basis of some existing knowledge base or walk away out of

frustration and at the extreme with the feeling of internal

inadequacy about himself or herself. Miles et al. (1988)

recognized two structural forms of sequencing--conceptual or

logical and topographical. The former is needed for the

individual to be able to both connect and organize what is

viewed as well as make the connection to his or her own

knowledge structures. The latter is identified as forming

the basis for being able to orient physically within the

exhibit as well as for being able to link the parts of the

exhibit across one another. The most characteristic forms

of sequencing seen in science museums and natural history

museums in particular include those based on chronological

time periods (i.e. paleontology, fossil study centers, etc.)

as well as those based on a particular taxonomy (i.e. hall

of birds, mammals, etc.).


The learning process described above is assumed to take

place in a sequential and hierarchical progression moving

from the simpler prerequisite levels to the more complex

(Gagne 1970, 1985; Gagne & Driscoll, 1988; Wilson & Koran,

1976). Furthermore Gagne (1985) and Gagne and Driscoll

(1988) suggested a hierarchical structure for content of

instruction. This form of content structure relies on the

elaboration of concepts or subject matter to be presented

which would include all supportive details and relationships

necessary to acquire the concept.

Studies and recommendations such as those of Melton

(1935), Melton, Feldman, and Mason (1936), Lakota (1975),

Winkel et al. (1975), Lakota and Kantner (1976), and Neal

(1976) have been important in clarifying the interaction

between structure of the exhibit and the visitor. These

studies also provide evidence that suggests the importance

of organization, structure, or conceptual orientation in an

exhibit. One can conclude that museum exhibits are most

commonly designed with some form of structure and sequence

in mind. This structure and sequence are also often based

on the disciplines of the particular subject area being

addressed by the museum or exhibit. It can also be

hypothesized that it is easier to attend to more information

if the visitor can find some means of organizing the

information (Alt & Griggs, 1984). Research studies into the

effectiveness of various teaching techniques on cognitive

outcomes both in education and in museums also provide an

indication of the importance of structure in the learning


Visitor Processing Activities

Briggs (1967) in a comprehensive review of structure

and sequence in education suggested that findings have been

inconclusive or extremely experiment specific. In reviewing

the literature he established eight categories as a basis

for comparison within and across studies. In areas of

maximum learner control (the highest degree of learner

control) studies had not been of structure or sequence but

rather on outcome only. Where there is learner controlled

content and sequencing (learner is free to choose specific

objectives and request information in sequence desired--

which turns out to be different than that designed), no

empirical studies were done. He suggested that, for adults,

if given well stated objectives and availability to sources

of relevant information, they might well achieve the

objectives more efficiently. In the case of learner

selection of materials and procedures (materials limited and

packaged into specific groupings) one must provide the

learner with a broad outline of the competencies to be

achieved and a suggested order in which to achieve them.

More positive results appear in the area of mixed

experimenter and learner control (what Briggs called adjunct


auto-instruction) where the sources of information are fixed

such as textbooks, lecture, etc. Here adjunct questions

resulted in better learning than instructional conditions

that do not employ consistent and immediate feedback--

student can go back and review in whatever sequence. In

fact his conclusion that "the task of discovering how to

sequence the text in a way meaningful to the student may be

so difficult that it is better to use texts as they are with

adjunct methods" may be most relevant to museums in that

exhibits may be as difficult to structure and sequence

(Briggs, 1969, p. 39). For studies where the experimenter

determined sequencing of instruction based on hierarchies of

competence (subordinate and superordinate competencies in a

logically derived hierarchical structure--principally the

work of Gagne) the arrangement of competencies in the order

in which they need to be acquired was empirically supported.

In the case of experimenter determined sequencing of frames

in programmed instruction (often logical versus scrambled

studies) changes in any one frame were likely to interact

with other aspects and characteristics of the program.

Results, however, on inductive versus deductive sequencing

in this category suggested that deductive was generally

found to be superior to the inductive especially for

immediate retention with the hypothesis that inductive

sequencing may be better for longterm retention. Briggs

concluded his review with learner determined branching in


auto-instruction (out of sequence based on learner readiness

or performance on objectives) for which little empirical

work existed and experimenter prepared advanced organizers

for which evidence suggested that providing a conceptual

framework facilitated learning of the materials in the

lesson itself. Other reviews of structure and sequencing by

Reigeluth, Merrill, and Bunderson (1978), and Patten, Chao,

and Reigeluth (1986, p. 464) are best summarized by the

latter who concluded that an awareness of both structure and

sequence is important in providing the individual with the

context of the information to be attended to thus resulting

in what they call a "more densely packed and longer learning

episode...without fatigue." Briggs concluded that the

overriding concern for structure and sequencing has been one

of instructional design rather than an actual empirical test

of the effects of as well as interactions between structure

and sequence. Cognitive psychology on the other hand, has

begun to deal with the processes that are involved in ~P
learning and offers a number of areas of inquiry for the

museum professional.

Sequence Implications for Museums from Cognitive Psychology

Museum research has for many years -focused on the

behaviors of the visitors that gan be modified through

either changes in the exhibits themselves or changes in the

physical layout of the museum (Lakota, 1975; Melton, 1935;

Miles et al., 1988). This approach to influence the


behavior of visitors best matches the behavioral conception

of learning that focuses on changes in the environment to

influence learning. The emphasis of this dissertation,

however, will be on the cognitive conception of learning

which focuses on changing the learner or encouraging the

learner to use appropriate learning strategies (Shuell,

1986). The latter focuses more on structured knowledge

rather than behaviors and on feedback strategies rather than

reinforcement. Emphasis is on mental processes and

knowledge structures as well as meaning and understanding.

This appears to be congruent with the directions for museum

exhibit design as discussed above and for museum research

into visitor activities (Koran & Koran, 1986; Lakota, 1976;

Miles et al. 1988).

Lakota (1976), on the basis of a review of cognitive

psychology literature related to education in museum,

concluded (a) that museum visitors can learn simply by being

told to learn (based on Ausubel, 1963, 1968; Carroll, 1968;

Postman & Senders, 1946); (b) that if museum visitors have

no apparent logical structure upon which to organize

information they will spend most of their already limited

time attempting to organize the exhibit themselves (based on

Meyers, Pezdek, & Coulson, 1973); (c) that retention and

recall of exhibit information will increase given a

knowledge of exhibit organization (based on Meyers, Pezdek,

& Coulson, 1973); (d) that for exhibits of high technical

content and low subject familiarity to visitors,

organizational information is critically important (based on

Dyer & Kulhavry, 1973, and Tobias & Duchastel, 1972); and

(e) that museums should tell visitors about concepts and

direct visitors to "find" objects, groups of objects,

specific characteristics about objects, etc. (based on

Anderson, 1970; Bloomberg, 1929; Powell, 1944). Lakota in

his 1976 study of learning support systems reported finding

that protesting and instructions to learn combined with maps

with sequential information on the exhibit layout, questions

before and after the exhibit, and a directive-sequenced

audio tape adjunct to an exhibit were all effective over the

protesting, instructions to learn and exhibit only condition

in producing learning support (cognitively as well as

effectively). Lakota also concluded that as his subjects

were "highly skilled" (89% had a college education) they

were capable of benefiting from the systems tested whereas

he surmises that those without this skill may not benefit.

The implications being that the treatments required a

generally higher ability level than might be expected to be

found in the average visitor and that other forms of

cognitive support must be found that will allow a wider

range of visitors to make the needed linkages between their

knowledge structures and those contained in the exhibits.

Koran and Koran (1986), in their proposed framework for

museum research, included as one of the critical components

consideration of visitor processing and orienting

activities. Koran, Koran, and Foster (1989), in a review of

cognitive psychology research, offered the following

processing as well as orienting recommendations. Based on

the work of Salomon (1983), information handouts should be

provided to visitors that describe the complexity of the

exhibited relationships and concepts. Research has

suggested that the amount of mental energy that an

individual invests in a particular activity based on whether

a task is perceived as being hard or easy significantly

impacts what is learned. Visitors who are informed about

the structure and sequence within an exhibit may therefore

invest greater energy than if they perceived it as having no

real structure or sequence. Salomons's work is clearly

linked as well to the work of Anderson, Pichert, and Shirey

(1983) who reported that what is learned is linked to the

perspective that a learner takes. Koran, Koran, and Foster

(1989) recommended that labelling or other adjunct materials

be provided to the visitor so that they might take a

perspective while viewing an exhibit. If the visitor could

pretend to be an explorer or a paleontologist and could be

provided with directional instructions to identify or

investigate a particular aspect of the exhibit, outcome

might be enhanced. Visitors could follow a structured or

sequential investigative path that might or might not be

inherent within the exhibit. These recommendations of


providing the visitor with ways of analyzing or viewing the

exhibit are supported by the work of Brown, Campione, and

Day (1981). These authors suggested that when individuals

are provided with the knowledge of how to consciously

monitor and use learning strategies, the learning outcome

will be enhanced. Based on this work it would appear that

providing visitors with strategies on how to view exhibits

should increase their learning outcome as well. This is,

however, dependent on the fact that the exhibited objects

and accompanying information have been analyzed so that

rules, structure, and sequences built in can be followed by

the visitor.

Koran, Longino, and Shafer (1983), based on the work of

Bransford (1979), Gagne (1970), and Keele (1973), also

described an information processing framework for the study

of learning in museums (see Figure 2-3). Gagne and Driscoll

(1988) enhanced this framework (see Figure 2-4) by

incorporating the broader theories of intelligence such as

those of Sternberg (1979, 1985a, 1985b)--componential

structures-- and Atkinson and Shiffrin (1968)--control

processes. As can be seen these theories carry with them an

implication of a systematic and structured flow of

information. Therefore, information processing components

are of importance due to their potential to both provide

information on how a visitor thinks and to provide

directions for influencing this process. An understanding

Information Processing Framework.
Adapted from Koran, Shafer, and Longino
(1983) and Gagne (1985).


Attention, perceiving
and coding

Short term

" workingg memory




Long term


Response (performance)

Figure 2-3.


Sensory Register

Sh ort-terIm



Executive Control AAAA

Exp ectancie s

Figure 2-4.

Enhanced Information Processing
Framework. Adapted from Gagne and
Driscoll (1988) .

Effe cto rs

Ge ne rato r

Re cep to rs


of these processing components can provide the museum

exhibit designer with insights into how exhibits can be

developed that are adapted to individual differences (Koran,

Koran, & Foster, 1989). In instructional design the learner

is held responsible for attending to the instruction and for

actively constructing the mental elaborations needed to

understand the information (Wittrock, 1978). Furthermore,

according to Wittrock (1978), the instructor is responsible

for developing and carrying out activities and interactions

that help in this construction and elaboration process.

From this it can be inferred that the museum exhibit

designer is responsible for providing the visitor with

adequate cues and structures that will allow the visitor to

access his or her own mental or cognitive processes using

existing strategies, knowledge, memory structures, etc.

Behaviors that mediate between the learner and the exhibit

or instructional activity and lead to the acquisition of or

change in learner or visitor knowledge have been coined as

"mathemagenic behaviors" (Rothkopf, 1970, p. 325). Such

behavior include orienting, attending, encoding, reviewing,

categorizing, elaborating, etc. Methods of affecting these

behaviors include cuing strategies, questions, directions,

incentives, and advance organizers (Frase, 1970; Mayer,

1979; Rothkopf, 1970; Wilson & Koran, 1976). Depending on

the type of questions and positioning, they can have the

effect of both forward shaping as well as rearward review.


Orienting information can serve to aid the learner in making

the appropriate connections to prior information, existing

information, and to the flow of the activity as demonstrated

by Ausubel and Fitzgerald (1962). Mayer (1979) reported

that of three different theories related to organizer

effects on learning, the Assimilation Encoding Theory had

the strongest empirical support. In this process new

information is actively integrated with existing knowledge

producing a broader learning outcome. Questions in museum

labels have been reported to increase visitor reading time

and related activities adjacent to the label; however, if

the focus of the effort is to be the learning of concepts,

rules, or other generalizations, little evidence has been

presented (Hirschi & Screven, 1988). Rothkopf (1970) and

Wilson and Koran (1976) also highlighted the difficulty of

distinguishing between the actual stimulus or object

presented to the learner or visitor and what they call the

"effective" stimulus or object that is actually encoded. It

is the behaviors of the learner during and subsequent to

exposure to the learning situation that modify, transform,

or further elaborate on the original stimulus and create the

effective stimulus. Additionally, Wilson and Koran (1976)

reported that there is an implied structure in the methods

used to affect these behaviors and that structure in

learning research has been shown to be a necessary aspect

for those students of low as well as average ability.


Higher ability students on the other hand benefit less from

structure instruction and more from self-direction and what

Cronbach and Snow (1977, p. 504) referred to as

"intellectual adaptation."

Aptitude treatment interaction studies also provide

supporting evidence of the nature of structure and sequences

and their effects on individuals. For the purpose of this

paper aptitudes are defined as any characteristic of the

individual that functions selectively either facilitating or

interfering with learning from a particular instructional or

exhibit method (Cronbach & Snow, 1977; Koran & Koran, 1984).

Cronbach and Snow (1977) in their review of individual

differences and instructional methods found a combination of

widely divergent as well as convergent research results that

are suggestive of a relationship between structure and

individual aptitudes. They reported, however, that in many

cases research results are contradictory and in fact may be

context dependent, thus ruling out generalizations as well

as comparisons. Results that are suggestive of interactions

between structure and individual differences are as follows:

Learning strategies. The multiple hypothesis method

works best for high ability individuals whereas a

single hypothesis works best with low ability

individuals. The strategy to be taught depends on

ability level.

Advance organizers. Advance organizers serve to

facilitate learning in subjects of low verbal ability

or low prior knowledge. Under certain conditions,

however, high ability individuals did better with an

advance schema whereas low ability individuals did

better without the schema. Comparative organizers

benefit low ability individuals. Organizers in general

produce better results for low ability students than do

protests. Constructed responses without

familiarization are better for highs and constructed

response plus familiarization is better for lows.

Questions. Although results are mixed, questions after

text are reported as being better for high ability

individuals and questions before text are better for

those of low ability. Questions appear to be overall

better for all.

Inductivefdeductive/discovery learning. Inductive

methods are better for high ability whereas deductive

is better for low ability individuals. Discovery

learning appears to be disadvantageous for low and not

harmful for high and medium ability individuals.

Reasoning ability. Individuals with low reasoning

ability do better with added structure.

Conceptual level. Low CL individuals do better with

external direction or directed teaching. High CL do

better with greater control of situations.

Conceptual styles. High analytical ability students

learned analytical concepts faster than inferential and

relational concepts with lows being the opposite.

Programmed instruction. Overall measures of general

aptitudes predicted outcomes. Initial scores were

correlated with outcome scores from PI. Gagne's work

that suggests that programmed instruction can carry a

person past predictions based on their entering

aptitudes is not proven. Some results did indicate

that based on achievement as an outcome, abler students

did better on scrambled versions and less-able better

on orderly versions. Attitude appeared to be more

positive for the abler students on the orderly version

with less positive attitude on the scrambled. In

general findings appeared to be at best context and

program specific making generalizations difficult.

The aptitude treatment interactions (ATI) suggested by the

research described by Cronbach and Snow (1977) support the

idea that "there is no one best educational treatment or

environment (exhibit) suited to some general, average

individual, but that different individuals thrive in

different environments suited to their own characteristic

needs" (Koran & Koran, 1984, p. 795). It can be

hypothesized that structure and sequence provide the

learner/visitor with what Ausubel and Fitzgerald (1962, p.

243) called ideationall anchorage." In addition knowledge


of the structure and sequence of the material to be studied

or viewed is necessary for linkage as well as subsequent

learning. Mayer's (1979) work also suggests that the

importance of advance organizers appears to lie in its

affect on transfer as he found the strongest positive

effects not on measures of retention but on those of

transfer. Thus a visitor, given the appropriate structure

and sequencing information on one exhibit, may have

carryover to other similarly structured and sequenced

exhibits. The aptitude treatment interaction research also

provides a foundation upon which it can be surmised that

different individual characteristics will mediate the

learning process either negatively, neutrally, or

positively. These characteristics of the visitor will be

reviewed in the visitor characteristics section.

Sequence Implications from Museum-Based Learning Research

There is an ongoing debate in the museum field as to

whether and when learning takes place, how it occurs, under

what conditions, and the outcomes that might be indicators

of this learning. Researchers such as Screven (1969) and

Shettel (1973) have entered the debate by taking the

position that the museum provides a valuable opportunity to

provide visitors with experiences that can increase their

knowledge and affect their beliefs and attitudes toward many

subjects, ideas, etc. Screven (1969) suggested that it

would be of value therefore to find ways of enhancing the

museum experience to make it a better learning experience.

This position then is consistent with the aim of attempting

to discern the effects of sequence on the learning process

in the museum. Winkel et al. (1975) provided support for

this conclusion by reporting that even when visitors are

provided with a combination of orienting media (maps and

signs) 40% of the visitors still felt that they needed more

orienting information, brochures being the most commonly

mentioned solution. Again as stated in reviewing the design

considerations of structure and sequence, there are

relatively few direct references to either structure or

sequence in the museum based research literature. As a

number of researchers have been interested in the

prescriptive approach or providing teaching aids or added

support for visitors, it will become apparent that structure

and sequence are indeed important elements.

Some of the earliest studies suggesting the importance

of structure and sequence are reported by Ramsey (1938).

Ramsey reported on a study by Gibson (1925) in an art museum

in 1923-24 that looked at the effect of a museum lesson and

presentation that gave fifth grade students background

information needed to answer a set of questions related to

the museum exhibit. Prior to the study students were tested

to determine their ability levels. Results from the post-

tests and retention tests indicated that low ability

students benefitted the most from this approach. Although


not identified with advance organizers this study appears to

be one of the earliest museum based studies of this idea.

Ramsey (1938) also reported on an art museum study in

1924-25 by Marguerite Bloomberg (1929) on the effects of

different lesson plans on student outcomes from a museum

visit. Using a similar high, average, and low ability

classification for students the results indicated that out

of nine plans used, high ability students achieved best when

they were given a classroom presentation about their visit

by museum staff one day prior to the visit. Low ability

students were reported to have done best when they were

provided with a list of questions when they entered the

exhibit area. The author, however, reported that the plan

for which the students showed the most enthusiasm was also

the one in which both high and low ability students

performed the worst. This plan allowed the students to

follow their own interests and view the exhibits as

presented much as visitors do to this date. Ramsey also

suggested that the results of this study indicate the value

of less teacher-centered instruction and more investigation

on the part of the children.

Melton, Feldman, and Mason (1936) in a study of over

2,500 fifth and sixth grade students found that preparing

students for a museum visit is most effective when it occurs

one day before the visit rather than two days, one week, or

two weeks before. Formal lectures as part of the museum


visit were found to be equally effective for the students at

either the beginning or end of the visit on the condition

that the lecture take place in the exhibit hall. When

looking at the effectiveness of three different methods of

instruction (illustrated lecture, question cards, and

discussion) across 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th graders Melton,

Feldman, and Mason (1936) found the differences in outcome

to be a function of educational level or the subject matter

being studied. No single method appeared to be better;

rather some methods were better for younger students than

older students and these differences varied depending on the

subject matter of the exhibit.

Abler (1968), in the first and only reported effort to

study the effect of the order in which material was viewed

in a museum, failed to find significant results due to

methodological problems, predominantly because of a lack of

randomization and adequate experimental controls. This

study, however, is important for the implications for

further study that result from the data collected. Abler

hypothesized that learning was the result of the combination

of visitor traffic patterns and the organization of the

materials within exhibit cases. The basis for this

hypothesis was the consistently reported visitor behavior

pattern of turning right upon entering an exhibit hall and

the fact that exhibit design is based on visitors reading

left to right as in printed media (books, newspapers, etc.)

(Abler, 1968; de Borhegyi, 1968; Dorr Dennis, pers. comm.,

1991; Kearns, 1940; Melton, 1935; Porter, 1938; Weiss &r

Boutourline, 1963; Yoshioka, 1942). In this study the

contents of the exhibit case depicted a sequence of

activities or steps in the production of an object (i.e.,

procedural structure--Riegluth, Merrill, & Bunderson, 1978).

Four sequenced "blocks" (panels?) were used that could be

readily ordered. In the first half of the study visitors

approached the case from the left and viewed the blocks

either in sequence or in reverse (A -> 1,2,3,4 or B ->

4,3,2,1). For the second half of the study visitors

approached the exhibit from the right and viewed the blocks

in order reading from right to left (4,3,2,1 <- C.) or

approaching again from the right however viewing the blocks

in reverse, again reading right to left (1,2,3,4 <- D).

Unfortunately a number of participants were pre-cued that

they would be taking a post-test thus affecting scores on an

already non-randomized study. Overall outcome scores

indicated that learning took place for those approaching

from the left and viewing in sequence (A) as well as in

reverse order (D). This effect disappeared however when the

results of those who were cued to the testing were removed

from the analysis. In addition, Abler attempted to discern

viewer opinion about the exhibit being viewed; however

again, methodological problems made interpretation of the

data impossible. Although the number of subjects was low

for the entire study and the methodology was less than

desirable, the results of this study do provide an

interesting result that is supported by research in museum

studies as well as education in general. Visitors who were

cued in advance about the testing apparently were able to

overcome the sequencing reversals and score on the average

higher on the post-test, thus affecting the overall

interpretation of the results! Design of the experimental

case appears to have been well considered; however, as no

information on visitor characteristics such as age,

educational background, etc. were provided, interpretation

of the results is difficult, or at least tentative.

Screven (1968, 1969) recognized early on that even the

best designed exhibit is limited in its ability to

communicate with the visitor. This he attributed to the

characteristics of the museum visitor that include the

heterogeneity of the population, voluntary attendance, free

choice environment, and the fixed nature of the exhibits.

In particular, Screven (1969, p. 8) stated that "it is

difficult to control the order with which the visitor will

view materials where simple ideas must precede complex

ones." These points are important due to the fact that

learning is often defined in conjunction with education or

learning in the more formal sense of the school, the

classroom in particular. In the formal sense the classroom

would tend to have homogeneity in the sense of student age,

ability, etc., involuntary attendance, teacher structured

choice, and teacher varied presentation of the materials as

well as interactions. Furthermore Screven recognizes at the

outset that as in the exhibit design process, specific

objectives or expected effects on the visitors are needed at

the outset and these are essential for the evaluation

process. These ideas form the basis of Screven's research

with the chief goal as "the design of a learning system

which allows the visitor to interact with and be directed

through the exhibit in such a way that learning occurs and

the instructional objective of the exhibit is achieved"

(Screven, 1969, p. 170). The design of this research was

based on the use of programmed questions that provided the

visitor with exhibit concepts and "relations proceeding from

simpler to more complex concepts" (Screven, 1969, p. 170).

A series of audio and programmed card aids that worked in

conjunction with a specifically adapted exhibit were found

to produce significantly more learning in visitors that used

them (Screven, 1974). Varying degrees of feedback were

provided to the treatment groups thus increasing the

interactive nature of the activities. Overall Screven found

that when visitors had no guiding aids, no pre-exhibit test

or other knowledge of what they were expected to get from

the exhibit, learning did not take place to any significant

degree. These results suggest that Screven's original

hypotheses about the functions of aids such as self-paced

audio may be correct. These aids may serve to "direct

attention to relevant exhibit information and control the

order or sequence in which different exhibit components are

viewed" by relating exhibit concepts to each other and/or

filling in missing information. Screven (1975, p. 219)

reiterated the concerns expressed by Miles (1988) with

respect to multilevel design in stating that the adapting of

exhibit techniques to meet the needs of the heterogenous

museum visitor is "one of the most important challenges of

public museums." This challenge can be met not only by

better exhibit design considerations but also by providing

adjuncts to exhibits such as programmed instructional aids.

DeWaard et al. (1974) continued with this line of

research through the use of programmed cards. In this study

the cards contained varying degrees of information from low-

program questions only to high-with supplementary

information that directed attention to aspects of the

exhibit. Overall the visitors using the learning program

had higher post-test outcomes than those visitors who took

the post-test only or those who visited only the exhibit and

then took the post-test. An interesting collateral result,

a finding that was also reported by Screven (1974), is that

these types of programs were used by a limited range of

visitors with adults being under-represented. Screven

(1975) in another study of labels and adjunct devices found

a combined effect that was rather larger--labels plus

adjunct systems. Labels along with the objects were found

to produce relatively low levels of learning. More

surprising question labels used in the study had no effect

over that of the informational labels in improving learning.

As in all museum research the results are probably a

function of a combination of situation specific problems.

Question type, information, format, exhibit content,

exhibits physical structure, etc. are but a few of the

possible problem areas that affected this study.

The study of the impact of novel settings on field

trips provides some of the strongest evidence regarding the

effects of structure and sequence in a museum setting.

Falk, Martin, and Balling (1978) found that 10-13 year old

students unfamiliar with a particular field trip setting

when compared to those already familiar with the same

setting did not benefit from the structured educational

activity presented. Unfamiliar students spent much of their

time in setting oriented activities whereas surprisingly the

familiar group was able to do both the setting as well as

the conceptual related learning simultaneously. Balling and

Falk (1979), in a review of four studies on the effects of

setting on field trip outcomes, report that although there

is a setting novelty effect, significant cognitive learning

does occur on field trips especially when associated with

prior familiarity with the setting. They also report that

what is learned is retained for as long as one month after

the experience. Falk and Balling (1980) and Falk (1983a)

recommended that in order to reduce the novelty effects,

students should be provided with orientation materials prior

to the visit and that these activities should be structured.

These organizers should then provide the students with the

needed structures to be able to view exhibits collecting

specific information and attending to the intended messages.

Wright (1980) reported that students presented with

classroom instruction had significantly higher achievement

on post-testing following a structured museum visit than

those who had the classroom instruction only. Gross and

Pizzini (1979) and Gennaro (1981) found that advance

organizers combined with field trip experiences were

effective in positively influencing both cognitive as well

as affective learning. Gennaro (1981), however, cautions

that these results should be more carefully studied with

respect to ability, age and grade levels. Stronck (1983)

found that structure in the form of guided tours plays a

significant role in the museum visit. For 5th, 6th, and 7th

grade students there was a greater cognitive outcome from

the museum experience if they participated in the structured

guided tour treatment condition. Although attitudinal data

was collected, the results were inconclusive as the students

entered the study with already positive attitudes. Flexer

and Borun (1984), in a comparison of the effects of the

combination of a structured museum classroom lesson and

exhibit visit, found that the structured lesson alone was

better than the exhibit experience. This study confirmed

the results found by Linn (1980) that direct lecture

demonstration followed by the museum experience was better

than in the reverse order. Koran et al. (1983), in a study

of the effects of a descriptive panel on the outcome of a

visit to a walk-through cave exhibit, reported that the

panel significantly enhanced visitor outcome when the panel

was present. However, due to the "select" nature of the

study group, the expected differential effects between

forward and backward review or shaping were not verified.

Overall the museum based research supports the

hypotheses stated in the previous section. This research,

however is solely focused on the concept of organizers and

produced little information on how one should address the

various ability levels and individual characteristics of the

museum visitor.

Museum Visitor Characteristics

Characterization of the museum visitor is difficult due

to the nature of the institution. Museums have been

characterized by most authors as places where informal

learning takes place. The visitor is continuously moving

between activities such as learning, entertainment, and

socialization. Individual characteristics such as age, sex,

educational background, cultural heritage, etc. all play a

significant albeit yet unidentified role in mediating the

processes information exchange process that takes place

between the visitor and the exhibit. Miles (1988)

suggested that the critical characteristic of visitor

activities is that they are essentially stress free thus

implying that visitors themselves should be under relatively

little stress. Alt (1980) in a study of the British Museum

(Natural History) found that visitors were equally as likely

to be male or female, to be below 11 years of age or between

25-34 (range 17-44), generally accompanied by family or

friends and that over 60% were accompanied by children.

This is confirmed for American institutions by DiMaggio,

Useem, and Brown (1978) who summarized of a number of

visitor studies across the art, science, history, natural

history, anthropology, and general museums. A median of 72%

of museum visitors had at least some college education, 54%

of the visitors were female (48% in science museums), 42% of

the visitors were professionals--includes teachers, and the

median age was 31. This appears to agree with the results

that Alt (1980) and Alt and Griggs (1982) reported with

respect to educational level of visitors to the British

Museum (Natural History). Approximately two-thirds of the

visitors have completed their full-time or formal education

(beyond the sixth form). Griggs (1990) also reported that

between 75% and 80% of visitors have no formal educational

qualification in biology. Of those that are qualified they

are only qualified up to the level of 15-16 year olds

(Griggs, 1990). This concern with biology is of particular

interest to museums of natural history and zoological parks.

Griggs (1990, p. 80) further reported that in their studies

of the museum visitor "whole areas of ignorance as well as

misconceived and preconceived ideas" have been found.

Bassett and Prince (1984) broadly summarized visitor

characteristics by stating that visitors come from a wide

age range with varying levels of literacy, visual-spatial

understanding, personality, and modes of perception as well

as economic, ethnic, social and educational backgrounds. In

attempting to determine how visitors selected the exhibit

they visited, Alt (1980) found that two factors were

involved: visitor intentions or interest and the physical

layout of the museum proper. Miles (1986, p. 77) found that

a great majority of the visitors are "specifically"

uninformed but that they can be motivated to spend time and

invest energy in attending and learning from exhibits.

Variations in behavioral characteristics of the museum

visitor are of interest for it is often these behaviors that

are used to infer that learning or understanding are

present. Koran, Longino, and Shafer (1983) in

conceptualizing museum research broadly summarized a number

of science/natural history museum visitor behavior patterns

and characteristics in the following way:

1. Family groups, class groups, solitary individuals,

minority members, bilingual visitors, and visitors of

different ages and sexes manifest many patterns of

behavior in common and some that are distinctly

different depending on the person and the type of

exhibit confronted.

2. Male and female behavior differs in the museum setting;

adult males seem to prse) objects quickly and cover a

lot of territory; females seem to linger longer on one


3. For the most part, adults move rapidly while children

tend to linger at exhibits.

4. "Visitors frequently appear disoriented" (p. 328) and

in general "museum visitors tend to view exhibits out

of planned sequence" (p. 326).

5. Adults tend to look around more than children to see

what other adults (and children) are doing and to see

if others are watching them in hands-on situations.

6. Older adults are more hesitant to push buttons than

younger visitors (p. 328).

The authors also found that when comparing exhibit types,

the dynamic or those that allow for a wide range of

multisensory activities encourage a wide variety of verbal

as well as social behaviors. Koran, Foster, and Koran

(1989) reported that length of visitor attention to exhibits

is essential for learning. In addition related to this is


visitor interest. This is supported as well by work done by

Shettel et al. (1968) who observed that for visitors to an

exhibit at the Museum of History and Technology, individuals

with greater prior knowledge about science tend to learn

more than those with less. Koran et al. (1984) reported on

a study of attention and holding power as related to

curiosity and found that a significant number of visitors

preferred manipulatable settings. Children preferred hands-

on experiences more than adults; female adults and children

preferred hands on activities more than males and male

children preferred hands-on activities more than adult

males. This work was supportive of earlier findings that

both adults and children are attracted to novel as well as

complex hands on activities (Koran & Longino, 1982).

Curiosity, which is often discussed as an important

variable in relation to informal settings, and museum

education in particular, is another characteristic of museum

visitors that has been suggested to be of importance. With

respect to studies in formal educational settings, Engelhard

and Monsaas (1988) investigated the effects of school

(public vs. Catholic) on curiosity by looking at changes in

curiosity as a function of grade level. Their results,

which are limited due to research design problems, indicated

that curiosity "decreases as a ~unction of grade level," and

the effects are greater in Catholic as opposed to public

schools (p. 25). The study is worth mentioning because


other authors have also suggested that the effect of schools

on curiosity is a negative one.

Studies in museums, however, provide some interesting

results. Peterson (1979) offered contradictory or perhaps

more appropriately clarifying information to the discussion

of the decline of curiosity in school. Using a museum

setting and objects in a longitudinal study of the same

group of sub-jects from age 6 to 18, Peterson found:

1. The form of curiosity from childhood to adolescence

changes qualitatively--younger children explore

objects, whereas older children spend more time

exploring books and magazines.

2. Sensorimotor curiosity does not decrease from childhood

to adolescence and remains relatively high.

3. Five- to 18-year-old students explore with great

interest when given the opportunity.

4. Individual styles or modes of expressing curiosity

sensorimotorr versus verbal) may be relatively

permanent by elementary school age (pp. 190-191).

Camp, Rodrigue, and Olson (1984) reported on adult

curiosity as a function of age. In a review of the

literature they concluded that the perceived value of the

information may play a critical role in influencing adult


1. Curiosity in younger adults (25-35 yrs old) is more

often the result of boredom and monotony (diversive

curiosity) which the authors interpreted as a search

for stimulation.

2. For young (25-35 yrs old) and middle (45-55 yrs old)

aged adults there is a positive relationship between

perceived value and desire for additional knowledge.

The strength of the relationship decreases with older

(65-75 yrs old) age.

3. No age effects are found on measures of specific

curiosity. Age is not related to search of


4. Age differences can be found in willingness to expend

energy and perceived meaningfulness of tasks (Camp et

al., 1984, pp. 397-398).

They concluded that "learning is meaningful to the degree

that the new learning task can be related to the existing

cognitive structure" of the individual (Camp et al., 1984,

p. 398). This research lends support to the cognitive

process connections made previously by other authors and

discussed in previous sections. Setting also appears to

have a particularly strong enhancing as well as deleterious

effect on visitor behaviors and their development. Formal

or traditional settings appear to have a negative impact;

whereas the scant information on informal or museum settings

indicates a more positive effect. Miles' (1986) three

conditions for motivating visitor interest appear to be

supported by the above-mentioned results: the free choice

setting, learners need to perceive the problem as an

enjoyable challenge, and there is a facilitating effect in

being able to provide a range of methods or ways in which to

learn. It also becomes apparent that often visitor

characteristics are also interwoven with the outcome

characteristics of the museum experience.


Earlier in this review one of the primary outcomes of

the museum visit was stated to be learning and cognitive

change. Aronson and Briggs (1983) and Gagne and Driscoll

(1988) suggested that there are five major learning

categories--intellectual skill, motor skill, verbal

information, cognitive strategy, and attitude. These

categories would appear to reasonably cover a majority of

expected outcomes from a museum visit with the possible

exception of those considered to be social in nature (Table

2-1). Within the intellectual skill category, structure and

sequencing are of implied importance in that subcategories

begin with basic forms of associative learning and proceed

through discrimination, concepts (concrete and defined),

rules, and higher order rules, each requiring the previous

category as a prerequisite for attaining the next level.

This framework (see Figure 2-5) would appear to be of value

in guiding museum outcome studies as many exhibits as well

as numerous studies and evaluations of exhibits have as

Table 2-1

Learning Categories

Learning Category Type of Performance Museum Performance

Intellectual abstracting, inferring, problem reading, and relating information from
solving, etc various exhibits or exhibit components

Motor Skill using coordinated body activating interactive exhibits: pushing
movements appropriate buttons, working
computers, etc.

Verbal Information recalling facts, etc. answering questions about exhibit
facts, recalling scientific and common
names, etc.

Cognitive Strategy metacognitive activities, novel working through interactive exhibit and
problem solving, etc. arriving at solutions based on exhibit

Attitude behaving in situation enjoying museum visit, attending to
appropriate ways exhibit content and details, etc.
based on Aronson and Briggs (1983)

Figure 2-5.

Intellectual Skill Subcategories.
Adapted from Gagne and Driscoll (1988).


their focus the conceptual framework and associated learning

related to the particular theme of the exhibit. Belland

(1986) in fact suggested that "concept learning" is an

outcome of the museum experience that is "well suited to the

normal functioning of most museums" (p. 86). Belland

further suggested that concepts are formed via experience in

a variety of contexts. Discrimination between features of

objects, identifying objects, classifying verbal

information, demonstrating/applying/representing learned

information, and using that information in other activities

all are features that can be seen to be possible outcomes of

viewing museum exhibits. Belland, however, cautioned that

in the museum setting, concept learning is limited to that

of the designer and that under some circumstances the museum

learner is "only allowed to experience" the results of the

curator's choices as well as learning thus participating in

a rote learning activity. Belland further suggested that

since the exhibits are already formulated on the basis of

some preplanned concept, visitors are not encouraged to

develop their own concept or at least provided with the

necessary direction by which they can modify their existing

concept framework and thus learn. In fact, as discussed in

the exhibit design section, visitors who are not being

provided with the required directions may be "discovering"

on their own the base concepts for a particular exhibit (at

the very best), forming completely unexpected concepts


(correct as well as well as erroneous ones), using improper

concepts, or at the very least nothing at all happens.

Lakota (1976) can be quoted to have concluded that by

relying on the "romantic notion" of "discovery," museums are

assuring that fewer visitors benefit from their visit and

avoiding the need to be specific about the objectives/goals

of exhibits (C.D.T., 1976, p. 19). This raises the question

as to how concepts are defined and what are the requirements

for concept learning.

In the broadest sense the cognitive structure of an

individual contains at any point in time all that an

individual has learned with the products or outcomes being

classified as information (perceptual, visual, verbal,

etc.), concepts, structures taxonomiess, hierarchies,

schema, etc.) and as strategies or skills (cognitive,

problem solving, etc.) (Klausmeier & Sipple, 1980).

Concepts are often commonly thought of as mental or internal

representations that are stored as meanings, relationships,

symbols, etc. Concept definitions also appear to fall into

three "views". The "classical", which according to Balzano

and McCabe (1986) has been largely discredited, holds that

concepts are defined by their necessary and sufficient

features. The "probabilistic" is similar to the classical

in that internal representations contain abstract

summarizing information but differs in that in this case,

this information need not be true for all instances of the


concept. The "exemplar" view holds that what is stored is a

literal copy of the objects or instances encountered. In

any case they report that empirical support for these views

is weak at best and they continue to support the more

general view of concepts as "conjunctions of properties

selected by the mind" (p. 100). This view suggests a form

of hypothesis-testing and -confirmation approach to concept

formation. They pointed out that this leaves the question

unanswered as to why certain concepts arise instead of

others and that there is no guarantee that "useful" concepts

will be constructed. They recommended that an ecological

approach be used whereby research focuses on the way

individuals interact with objects in their environment which

should then reveal information on their concepts.

Psychologically, concepts have also been defined as the

ability to "generalize within classes and discriminate

between classes" (Mechner, 1965, p. 461). Bourne,

Dominowski, and Loftus (1979) in a historical as well as

summative perspective provided several definitions for a

concept which can be seen as

a. those elements or stimulus features which members of

the class held in common;

b. "a multiplicity of clues, some of which are common to a

given category and therefore relevant to that category

and others of which are not common or are irrelevant"

(p. 167);

c. "an abstraction in the sense that it refers to no

particular object, process, state of affairs, or event

but rather to a collection of such concrete entities"

that have two fundamental components: a set of defining

features and a relationship among them (p. 194).

Klausmeier and Sipple (1980), as well as Gagne (1974)

and Markel (1977), differentiated among a number of forms of

concepts. "Concrete" concepts are those that have

perceptible attributes (color, animal, etc.) whereas

"defined" or "abstract" concepts are those with attributes

that cannot be readily pointed to (diagonal, pivot, etc.).

Other distinctions include "generic" versus "specific"

whereby a generic concept is all inclusive (animal includes

dog). Important structural and sequencing aspects of

concepts and their formation have also been reported. Gagne

(1970) clearly suggested that concept or skill acquisition

is a hierarchical process with the lower level concepts

being acquired and gradually integrated to form higher level

concepts. Bourne, Dominowski, and Loftus (1979) reported

that research supports the idea that natural concepts are

hierarchical in nature with a basic level containing

information (reduced to as few classifications as possible)

about the object and the higher levels containing condensed

or more abstract information. Balzano and McCabe (1986)

reported that concepts are related to one another in a

hierarchical manner with the larger inclusive concept at the

top and defined by features common to the lower level

concepts, thus implying a structural component. At the

basic level there is the object description in which objects

share many features or properties and "share ways in which

persons interact with them" (Balzano & McCabe, 1986, p. 97).

Mechner (1965) suggested that for broader concepts,

sequential discrimination and generalizations about a

variety of concepts may be needed. Mechner, in what may be

an oversimplification of the instructional aspects of

teaching generalization and discrimination, stated that the

process is rather "straightforward" being technically

problematic only insofar as the identifications of the

properties to be generalized and discriminated. This is

highlighted by Case (1975) who also found that the Gagne

hierarchical approach is helpful in that it allows a learner

to be led through a series of intermediate activities that

will lead to the terminal concept. Klausemeier and Sipple

(1980) suggested a structurally similar successive four step

model for concept attainment involving an initial concrete

level whereby attending, discriminating, internally

representing an object and remembering the representation.

This they suggested was followed by an identity level

whereby objects are recognized independent of their contexts

and where generalization occurs to make this identity

possible. The classificatory level implies a higher level

of discrimination between a variety of examples and non-

examples of concepts. At the formal level concepts can be

defined and examples can be reliably compared against non-

examples. Attainment of these various levels is suggested

to be related to the content domain and the abstractness of

the examples. Concept learning is suggested to be formed

through active strategic hypothesis testing whereby the

individual learns both the defining features and the

relationships among them (Bourne, Dominowski, & Loftus,


Conditions that would affect the process of concept

learning can be summarized to include the (a) definition of

the task (Does the visitor know that there is a concept to

be learned? Is the learner seeking to attain a concept?);

(b) the nature of the "validation" (Are there sufficient

instances--positive and negative-? Can the learner readily

check on hypotheses formed?); (c) the consequences of

particular categorizations (Is there a price associated with

right and wrong?) and (d) the types of restrictions placed

on the process (Are there sufficient external aids? Is there

a sufficient mix of verbal, visual, and other supportive

sensory information?) (Bruner, Goodnow, & Austin, 1973).

These four conditions have been broadly summarized by Gagne

(1985) into the conditions within the learner and the

conditions within the situation.

Exposure to three-dimensional examples in a particular

context and experienced early in life are reported to be

learned earlier than those concepts that can only be

represented symbolically (Gagne, 1985; Gagne & Driscoll,

1988; Klausemeier & Sipple, 1980). Individual differences

also appear in concept learning with intrapersonal (students

in particular) variations occurring across subject areas

(Klausmeier & Sipple, 1980). Mastery of concepts between

individuals is also reported to be variable and dependent on

the subject matter as well as the information coordinating

capacity of the individual, thus leading to suggestions that

instruction be adapted to the learning characteristics of

the individual (Case, 1975; Klausmeier & Sipple, 1980).

Case (1975) criticized the Gagne model as not accounting for

these individual differences, more specifically for

cognitive capacity especially of young children.

Information-processing capacity as reported by Case (1975)

is reported to level off at 15-16 years of age. Field

independence which relates to the degree to which the

"organization of the prevailing field" determines what is

perceived is also reported to change until age 16 (Case,

1975; Witkin et al., 1962, 1977). Case further speculated

that for young children the absence of the ability to avoid

making what early on is a natural or spontaneous set of

choices should be the educational focus. Information-

processing capacity and an inability to overcome one's field

"dependence", however, must be dealt at all ages by adapting

instructional systems or exhibits (in the case of museums)

to the learner. Case (1975) suggested this can be done

through practice, chunking, narrower "hierarchy spans", etc.

which should allow for the strengthening and integration of

responses to form the desired concept. Concept learning,

therefore, is an outcome that can be expected from the

museum experience. As noted in Figure 2-1 and in the

discussion above, outcomes such as concept learning are

expected to be affected by the nature of the stimulus

(exhibit in this case), the characteristics of the learner

and the processing activities required.

Other outcomes that have been reported by a number of

authors include changes in attitudes towards museums,

science and related subjects; curiosity; increased

stimulation; shared experiences; and social learning (Borun,

1977; Falk, nd, 1982, 1983b; Graburn, 1977; Loomis, 1987;

McManus, 1987, 1988; Miles et al., 1988). In general the

majority of studies in museums study a variety of outcomes

based on the orientation of the researcher. These outcomes

also vary on the basis of the nature of the exhibit (static

to dynamic) and its physical makeup as well as layout.

Outcome measures used in museum research have been

based in general on measures used both in educational

research and psychology studies. No measures have been

reported that can be considered typically associated with or

unique to museums. Typically studies in museums have

measured verbal ability (verbal content) and/or spatial

abilities (pictorial content); however the use of these

measures independently from consideration of processes

involved in the exhibit, or instructional programs is no

longer advisable (Koran & Koran, 1984). Other measurable

outcome variables that have been identified from the

literature by Koran and Koran (1984) as giving consistent

aptitude treatment interaction results include measures of

general ability, anxiety, prior achievement and achievement


With respect to general ability, Koran and Koran (1984)

reported that in general, research results indicate that

high ability individuals do better in settings that require

them to solve, organize and build their own meanings. On

the other hand the more the instructional program or exhibit

does by way of information processing for the learner, the

better for low ability students. Inductive methods

therefore appear to be better for high ability individuals

whereas deductive methods, which are used traditionally as

the museum exhibit design method, are better for low ability

students. Koran and Koran take this further in reporting

that literature suggested that verbal abstract concept

treatments are generally better for high ability learners

and that simple diagrammatic symbolic representations which

supplement verbal abstract content are better for low

ability students. Alternative treatments based on general

ability should then be feasible in a museum setting.

Anxiety as a measure is more and more an appropriate

consideration when dealing with formal structured classroom

type settings. The average museum visitor is under no

constraints beyond those which the visitor personally sets.

Exceptions may exist in that guided activities, programs and

fairly complex concepts may be presented for viewing and

upon which visitors must make a decision to either view or

not view especially in a family or group situation.

Although these findings have not been assessed in museums,

Tobias (1979) and Koran and Koran (1984) reported that the

greater the difficulty of the problem the more

disadvantageous the experience is for the highly anxious.

In addition highly anxious individuals require memory

supports as well as greater organizational support

externally so that they can better attend to the activity at

hand and recall as well as incorporate the given

information. Finally achievement motivation appears to also

significantly mediate learning. Cronbach and Snow (1977) as

well as Koran and Koran (1984) reported that students who

are encouraged to work on the basis of their preferred

achievement style (via independence or via conformity)

generally do best.

It is apparent from the literature that outcomes from

the museum experience can be varied as well as dependent on

a number of individually different variables. A review of

research into the interaction between the visitor and museum


exhibits reveals considerable study of the effect of exhibit

characteristics such as letter size, exhibit type (static vs

dynamic), visitor behavior, etc. (Bitgood et al., 1986a;

Bitgood et al., 1986b; Borun & Miller, 1980; DeMouthe, 1989;

Falk et al., 1985; Peart, 1984; Serrell, 1981). Optimal

letter size, text length, mix of graphics and text, height

and composition of the exhibit, and physical layout as well

as numerous other variables have an impact on the outcome of

the museum experience. It appears, however, that there is

strong support for the conclusion that informing the visitor

of the organization, structure and sequencing of the exhibit

and/or how to view the exhibit may be the critical variable

that to this date has neither been used effectively nor

investigated to any significant extent.

Perspectives Research--A Unifying Theme for Museum Studies

Research into providing visitors with some form of

schema or framework with which they can organize and

elaborate exhibit information is clearly indicated by the

above-mentioned studies. Furthermore, based on the work of

Anderson (1970), Screven (1975), Lakota (1976), Wittrock

(1978), Brown, Campione, and Day (1981), Anderson, Pichert,

and Shirey (1983), Miles (1988), and Koran, Koran, and

Foster (1989) it would appear that providing an orienting

perspective or schema to the museum visitor would encompass

many if not most of the recommendations with regards to

structure and sequence previously discussed. Anderson,

Pichert, and Shirey (1983) suggested that individuals

attempting to read and understand text have a similar need

and in fact find that readers consistently make inferences

and recall information based on their perspectives and/or

schemata. This area of study would, therefore, appear to

unify many of the museum based findings and recommendations

as well as provide a theoretical basis for further studies.

A brief review of perspectives related literature would

therefore appear to be appropriate.

Museum based "visitor perspectives" studies have not

been done to this date. A 1975 study by Winkel et al. is

perhaps one of the earliest studies that touches on this

area, although in an oblique way, in suggesting that the

entire area of exhibit relationships from the "visitor's

perspectives is a very rich source for further exploration"

[:p.xi). Most recently Volkert (1991, p. 48) suggested that

museums are entering a phase whereby exhibits "present

multiple perspectives and encourage visitors to shape their

own experience." As previously stated the basis for this

approach is what Volkert called core statements for

exhibitions that include the message as well as the

relationships that the museum wants the visitor to receive.

The validity of this approach is questionable as no museum

based evidence is provided that the visitor actually

understands and utilizes the designer's core statements.


Theoretical support for this concept, however, can be found

in the title biasing studies of reading comprehension by

Bransford and Johnson (1973), Schallert (1976), Schwarz and

Flammer (1981), and Brooks, Spurlin, Dansereau, and Holley

(1983). They found that presenting subjects with headings,

text titles or thematic titles before reading a passage

facilitated recall from both comprehensible as well as

ambiguous text. These studies also formed the basis for

much of the perspectives research in cognitive psychology.

Anderson (1970) implied the role that perspective-

taking might play when he suggested that for learning from

verbal materials, three mediating processes are required--

attention to the stimulus, encoding, and the conceiving of

relationships or linkages between the aspects of the

stimulus or more critically the aspects that would later

serve as cues and the response. Furthermore, it is

suggested that learning is facilitated when the learning

task requires some form of deep processing thus becoming

meaningful (Anderson, 1970). On the other hand, a key

assumption of the perspectives approaches to knowledge

acquisition is the view that the knowledge that individuals

already have forms the basis for what a person can learn

(Anderson, 1977, 1984). Bransford, Barclay, and Franks

(1972, p. 195), in a study of the contrast between a

constructive/interpretive approach to sentence memory, found

evidence that subjects construct "wholistic semantic


descriptions of situations." Accordingly new information is

taken into preexisting knowledge structures or schema and

depending on the context into which the information is

incorporated, its implications for further learning may be

affected. This is supported by Bransford and McCarrell

(1974, p. 220) who suggested that the ability of an

individual to understand perceptual events is based upon the

ability to use ones "general knowledge to create situations"

that allow presented relationships to be envisioned or

imagined. Anderson (1977a, p. 419) suggested that

comprehension relies on the ability of the learner to

"discover a formulation which coherently explains" what is

being perceived by the sensory inputs. Bransford, Nitsch,

and Franks (1977, p. 48) further clarified the relationship

by stating that "past experience provides an increasingly

precise and differentiated framework that sets the stage for

perceiving, understanding, and acting" and that "effective

learning therefore seems closely akin to perceptual learning

where the latter involves a process of differentiation

rather than enrichment by storage of subsequent facts."

This they suggest leads the learner from the perspective of

"thinking about" to "thinking in terms" of information, thus

avoiding context bound calculations, etc. in order to

understand or comprehend the particular activity or exhibit

in the case of museums. The former implies fact acquisition

and the latter ways of "seeing" and suggests what Bransford,

Nitsch, and Franks (1977, p. 51) called a "remodelling of

one's perspective." They support this hypothesis by

referring to work done by Hannigan (1976) who they reported

as finding information recall of both new and old

information for individuals who were provided with a

"thinking in terms of" perspective over those who were

presented with a facts only perspective prior to hearing

information. High-level schema or knowledge structure may

provide individuals with the ideationall scaffolding" as

well as "interpretive framework" needed for comprehending

text, discourse, etc. (Anderson, Reynolds, Schallert, &

Goetz, 1977b; Pichert & Anderson, 1977). The strength of

this dominant schema can result in individuals being

completely unaware of alternative explanations for

information being presented to them (Anderson et al.,

1977b). Of particular interest to museums is the hypothesis

that, based on studies of high-level schemata that

individuals bring with them, that "the schemata by which

people attempt to assimilate texts will surely vary

according to age, subculture, experience, education,

interests, and belief systems" (Anderson et al., 1977b, p.

378). However, evidence supporting this contention is not


Pichert and Anderson (1977) in a study of reading

comprehension and memory found that individuals learn more

of the important information than unimportant ideas in

passages and that the importance of any particular idea is

dependent on the perspective an individual takes. "It was

an idea's significance in term of a given perspective that

influenced whether it was learned and whether it was

recalled" (Pichert & Anderson, 1977, p. 114). This is in

part supported by d'Ydewalle, Degryse, and Swerts (1982) who

reported that details or important "idea units" are better

recalled if they are present in the initial sections of text

or if they are important for comprehension of the storyline.

In an attempt to more clearly discern the underlying

processes that take place when perspectives are used,

Anderson and Pichert (1978) introduced a perspective shift

following the reading and initial recall of a given passage.

Their results supported the overall conclusion that some

irrelevant information is encoded during information

processing and that given a new and connected perspective or

schema this information may be retrieved. This study,

however, was unable to detect whether the underlying

processes were primarily ones of a retrieval plan (search

from generic knowledge to specific information stored at

time of encoding), output editing (information indexing for

searching within schema), or inferential reconstruction

(missing information is filled in based on other existing

information). Mayer and Bromage (1980) in a related study

using advance organizers defined as "a system for logically

organizing the incoming information into a unified

structure" reported results supporting both encoding and

assimilation processes of knowledge acquisition. Their

results confirmed that individuals provided with organizers

prior to text reading "performed better on test questions

involving transfer to conceptually more distant tasks...

whereas subjects given the model after reading the text

tended to excel on near transfer tasks that were similar to

the information presented in the text" (Mayer & Bromage,

1980, p. 223). Therefore, it is possible to infer that

those receiving the organizer prior to the task acquired

more connections to concept or knowledge already in memory.

Spiro and Bromage (1980) further speculated that the

organizer can only provide meaningful learning if it is

available during learning and that the use of models that

encourage narrow learning outcomes (after) with few linkages

can actually retard meaningful learning. Anderson, Pichert,

and Shirey (1983) concluded that perspectives presented

before, shortly after, and long after (2 weeks) reading have

a pronounced effect on recall from reading text information.

The schema activated by these perspectives serve to

selectively enhance if not focus encoding and retrieval of

information in memory.

As mentioned early on, inherent in the perspective

taking approach is the underlying assumption of pre-existing

knowledge structures. Although strong evidence supporting

perspective approaches exists, a caveat can be found in the


work of Grabe (1979) who found no significant difference in

responses between subjects provided with a used car buyer or

homebuyer perspective and those only reading given passages

that could be read from two viewpoints. Based on interviews

with the college students in the study, Grabe hypothesized

that the students were unable to use the perspective because

they did not have the necessary knowledge to be able to

support or organize the schema underlying the perspectives.

These results provide incidental support for the above-

mentioned hypothesis (Anderson et al., 1977) that the

effects of perspectives may vary with age, culture, etc.

Goetz, Reynolds, Schallert, and Radin (1983), in attempting

to determine the role of reader's background and interests,

reported that reader's background affected reading times.

Experienced subjects, actual policemen, who were given the

burglar perspective spent more time on the information of

interest to burglars; however the comparison group,

community college real estate students, did not. These

findings would appear to be in keeping with the findings of

Grabe (1979) that pre-requisite knowledge plays a role in

the ability to use a perspective. Further evidence for

individual differences is reported by Spiro and Tirre (1980)

who hypothesized that individuals differing on Embedded

Figures tests should differ in their use of perspectives.

They theorize that Embedded Figures tests (EFT) should be

able to provide evidence on a subject's ability to

superimpose structure from memory onto a stimulus and thus

use preexisting knowledge schema in a given processing task.

Mixed results were reported. Spiro and Tirre found that

given the same text structure in the passages, low and high

EFT scorers did equally well on a less constrained

supermarket perspective; however they differed strongly on

the more particular restaurant perspective. d'Ydewalle,

Degryse, and Swerts (1982) found similar results with those

scoring high on the Group Embedded Figures Test

"distinguishing more efficiently the high important idea

units from less important ones" in texts used in their


Perspectives research therefore appears to offer a

unifying concept which can both provide museum visitors a

knowledge based orienting framework or schema linking their

knowledge to that contained in an exhibit and also provide

museum professionals with the appropriate tools to reach

different types of visitors and offer them the opportunity

to enhance their visit by improving their understanding of

the museum message.


It is evident from the literature that the interaction

of exhibit design characteristics, visitor processing

activities, visitor or individual characteristics and

outcomes can significantly influence the intended messages)

of an exhibit. Additionally it is evident that little

research has been done to explore these aspects either

individually or as they interact. Consequently this review

has drawn heavily on research in formal settings.

As will be recalled, museum exhibits are generally

thought to be structured and most often sequenced with

respect to their content. Exhibit content is often based on

some concept or related framework that originates as the

result of curatorial efforts (Miles et al., 1988; Neal,

1976). Melton (1935), Melton, Feldman, and Mason (1936),

Abler (1968), Lakota (1975), Winkel et al. (1975), Lakota

and Kantner (1976), and Alt and Shaw (1984) have all

reported that visitors are most likely to approach and

attend to an exhibit out of sequence unless otherwise

informed. Gibson (1925), Bloomberg (1929), Melton, Feldman,

and Mason (1936), Ramsey (1938), Shettel et al. (1968),

Anderson, et al. (1977b), Falk, Martin, and Balling (1978),

Grabe (1979), Gross and Pizzini (1979), Falk (1979), Linn

(1980), Falk and Balling (1980), Gennaro (1981), Falk

(1983a), Koran et al. (1983), Stronck (1983), and Flexer and

Borun (1984) provided evidence based on studies of students

and visitors suggesting an hypothesis that visitors in

organizing information may act differentially based on

ability, prior knowledge and educational level. Screven

(1969) and DeWaard et al. (1974) in a study of visitors

using exhibit adjunct materials (audio and programmed cards)

reported that learning was significantly better for those

using the aids. These results would further lend support to

an hypothesis that if visitors can find some means of

organizing information presented in an exhibit they will

find it easier to attend to more information (Alt & Griggs,

1984; Anderson, 1970, 1977, 1984; Ausubel & Fitzgerald,

1962; Miles, 1988; Screven, 1975). Similarly an orienting

perspective can also be surmised to be facilitative based on

the work of Bransford and Johnson (1973), Schallert (1976),

Pichert and Anderson (1977), Schwarz and Flammer (1981),

Anderson (1970, 1977, 1984), and Anderson, Pichert and

Shirey, (1983). As will be recalled this line of inquiry is

also supported by the work of Atkison and Shiffrin (1968),

Gagne (1970, 1985), Wittrock (1978), Mayer (1979), Sternberg

(1979), Klausmeier and Sipple (1980), Koran, Longino and

Shafer (1983), and Gagne and Driscoll (1988) which provides

an information processing framework within which concepts

are formed and information is inferred to flow in a

systematic and structured way allowing for learning,

assimilation, elaboration and transfer.

It should also be recalled that a key assumption

underlying the design process is that visitors have the

essential or previously learned prerequisite knowledge or

skills as well as those supportive prerequisites that

facilitate the learning process (Lakota & Kantner, 1976).

Cognitive psychology studies by Rothkopf (1970), Anderson,

1970, 1977, 1984), Wilson and Koran (1976), Mayer (1979),

Brown, Campione, and Day (1981), Salomon (1983), and

Anderson, Pichert, and Shirey (1983) provide evidence

supporting the hypothesis that visitors who are provided

with ways of how to consciously monitor their knowledge,

learning strategies, and information on exhibit complexity

in conjunction with cues and structures within the exhibit

proper will gain significantly from their museum experience.

Case, (1975), Koran, Koran, and Freeman (1976), Wilson

and Koran (1976), Cronbach and Snow (1977), Grabe (1979),

Spiro and Tirre (1980), Goetz et al. (1983), and Koran and

Koran (1984) further expand the above-stated hypothesis by

reporting on results that suggest that variations in outcome

can be found to be dependent on individual differences in

cognitive capacity, prior knowledge, field dependence,

general ability and mode of instruction--in general, single

hypothesis, organizers, questions, and structured/deductive

instruction are best for low ability individuals. Lakota

and Kantner (1976) and Koran et al. (1983) provide

supporting evidence that the provision of learning support

materials would not be detrimental to high ability

individuals. In fact based on the results reported by

Koran, Koran, and Freeman (1976) and Lakota and Kantner

(1976), it could be hypothesized that two forms of support

could be provided based on the exhibit framework with wider

range exhibit knowledge being supported inductively and

lower level objectives being supported deductively. This

might be in the direction that Taborsky (1990) and Volkert

(1991) call a discursive interaction (deductive x

inductive) vs the traditional observational interaction

(inductive) between the visitor and the object. Peterson

(1979), Koran, Longino, and Shafer (1983), Camp, Rodrigue,

and Olson (1984), and Miles (1988) provide additional

evidence for the hypothesis that museums must provide a

range of methods that facilitate learning not only based on

cognitive characteristics but on sex as well as age.

Providing visitors with learning support should take

advantage of learning skills/abilities already present in

the individual visitors, enhancing their means for directing

observations, for understanding and for perceiving (C.D.T.,

1976; Lakota & Kantner, 1976). Given the findings and

general conditions suggested by the research discussed above

the following conclusions appear to be a natural progression

for inquiry into "what the visitor needs to know and do in

order to learn" from a museum exhibit (Miles, 1986, p. 228).

Subjects receiving a treatment consisting of an exhibit

whose content is organized in a sequential manner should

perform significantly better on a written criterion measure

based on exhibit content than those experiencing the exhibit

in a non-sequential manner. Furthermore, subjects receiving

a treatment consisting of an exhibit whose content is

organized in a sequential manner will perform significantly


better on written criterion measure based on exhibit content

if they are presented with a perspective on how the exhibit

should be perceived versus those receiving no perspective.

Finally, there will be a significant difference, following

interaction with the treatment exhibit, between subject

performance on written criterion measures, based on exhibit

content, and subject aptitudes (sex, science skills, verbal

ability, and field dependence/independence).


Research Hypotheses

Based on the findings presented in the literature and

conclusions stated at the end of Chapter 2 the following

research hypotheses were indicated:

Main Effects

H,. No relationship exists between the aptitudes (verbal

comprehension, embedded figures, and science reasoning

skill) and the post-test scores.

H2. NO relatiOnship exists between gender and the post-test


H3. NO relationship exists between perspective and post-

test score.

H,. No relationship exists between sequence and post-test


Two-way Interactions

H,. The relationship of perspective with the post-test

score does not differ by the effects of sequence.

H,. The relationship of aptitude (verbal comprehension,

embedded figures, and science reasoning skill) with the

post-test score does not differ by perspective.

H,. The relationship of aptitude (verbal comprehension,

embedded figures, and science reasoning skill) with the

post-test score does not differ by sequence.

Three-way Interaction

H,. The relationship of aptitude (verbal comprehension,

embedded figures, and science reasoning skill) with the

posttest does not differ by the combined effects of

sequence and perspective.

Experimental Design

This study's experimental design consisted of a post-

test only control group design with random assignment of

subjects to treatment groups defined by perspective and

sequence (Table 3-1) (Campbell & Stanley, 1973).

Randomization was expected to assure the researcher that the

groups are randomly equivalent thus eliminating the need for

a pretest. The use of a pretest is not desirable for a

number of reasons. Of primary concern in this study is the

threat to internal validity resulting from the pretest cuing

the subjects or acting as an advanced organizer thus

becoming another treatment. Additionally, Campbell and

Stanley (1973) suggest that if the desire is to be able to

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