Families' experiments and conversations at an open-ended exhibit in a science museum: Individual characteristics and the influence of minimal guidance strategies

Rooske K. Franse*, Tessa J.P. van Schijndel, Tamara I. Plankman, Maartje E.J. Raijmakers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Research on the impact of guided investigation, including verbal guidance strategies, has expanded in the recent decade, and the current work contributes to this line of research in a museum context. The current in-depth study examines the impact of verbal guidance strategies on family learning at an open-ended museum exhibit, considering participants' individual characteristics. The experiments and conversations of 104 families were observed at an object motion exhibit. Results show that families, with and without guidance, investigated in a meaningful way by performing control-of-variables strategy experiments, investigating a range of variables, and formulating hypotheses and causal explanations. However, the results also show that the process of learning scientific concepts could be improved. Minimal interventions of museum educators positively affected the families' learning process by reducing the number of scientifically incorrect remarks. Interestingly, in addition to discussing the phenomenon, especially the families with highly educated parents discussed the topic of reliability of their experiments, which is an under-investigated aspect of learning through investigation. Only children's cognitive ability and not parental education was modestly, but consistently related to the families' performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)707-742
Number of pages36
JournalScience Education
Issue number4
Early online date5 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The research of Rooske Franse is funded by a Museum Grant of the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), the Department of Psychology of the University of Amsterdam, and NEMO Science Museum. We would like to thank children and parents for their participation in the study. We thank Mandy Lubbers and Natascha Siersema for help with the data collection and coding, and we thank Mariska Bosschaert and Nathalie Spaans for performing the guidance strategies. We thank the three anonymous reviewers whose comments helped improve and clarify this manuscript. The study was supported by Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), Grant Number: MB‐15‐05, 333‐54‐002.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Science Education Published by Wiley Periodicals LLC

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • control-of-variables strategy
  • conversation
  • family learning
  • museum educator
  • visitor studies


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