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ERIC Number: EJ895430
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 12
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-1059-8650
Challenging a Common Assumption of Hands-On Exhibits: How Counterintuitive Phenomena Can Undermine Inquiry
Gutwill, Joshua P.
Journal of Museum Education, v33 n2 p187-198 Sum 2008
Some of the most intriguing science museum exhibits start with a counterintuitive outcome: a result that runs counter to visitors' expectations. Although counterintuitive events often succeed in captivating visitors, they rarely lead to visitor-driven inquiry. I argue that this is primarily due to two factors. First, for the counterintuitive effect to be presented reliably and repeatedly, the visitor's interaction must be limited to a narrow set of options. Without multiple options for visitors to explore, extended inquiry is nearly impossible. Second, counterintuitive outcomes beg the question "why did the outcome occur?". Answering such a "why" question through experimentation alone is too challenging for most visitors; they either leave the exhibit or turn to an explanatory label. In either case, the potential for inquiry is unrealized. Three strategies that both motivate visitor inquiry and allow for open-ended exhibit designs are presented: revealing beautiful aesthetics, supporting creativity, and providing engaging representations. (Contains 29 notes.)
Left Coast Press, Inc. 1630 North Main Street #400, Walnut Creek, CA 94596. Tel: 925-935-3380; Fax: 925-935-3380; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: California