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Running Head: Inquiry Learning in a Museum Setting

Inquiry Learning in a Museum Setting EDCI 531 Jason Thorne Purdue University

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Introduction The purpose of this paper is to explore need and importance of inquiry learning in a museum. The problem found in some museum exhibits is a lack of organization and foundation in learning principles. Museum exhibits designed with inquiry learning in mind provide the best learning environment for the learner. This paper will explore how inquiry learning is used and how it is applied in the museum setting. Inquiry learning provides an opportunity for a learner to discover new knowledge by making connections to prior knowledge and engaging in the lesson. Learners in inquiry learning are involved in asking questions and formulating solutions. This is contrary to other learning styles were knowledge is acquired or passed to the learner (Ertmer & Newby, 1993). In inquiry learning the learner is involved in the process of questioning, discovering and making connections to build their new knowledge. The purpose of museums has always been to inform the public about a specific topic dating back to the first known museum in 530 BCE (Wilkins, 2011). Some museums do this better than others; the ones that do it better seem to have a better plan for how the learning will happen. Museums that dont have a clear plan for how the learning will happen can often fall short of their goal to educate the public. They end up being a collection of stuff rather than a place for learning. To inform the public a museum should have an organization in place for informal learning to happen. Informal learning is learning happening outside the classroom (Eshach, 2007). A museum is a setting that is outside a traditional classroom but can provide a positive learning environment. A museum that uses inquiry learning to educate the visitors is not only

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informing them but is engaging the learners to become involved in their own learning. The involvement in learning allows the visitors to apply their new knowledge. The organization of this paper is to first investigate what is inquiry learning and then how it is applied to the museum setting. To investigate inquiry learning we will look at what it is, why it is important, how knowledge is gained, and what methods are used. The areas that will be investigated in the museum setting are where it is used, how it is applied, and the outcome of using inquiry learning. Finally, the paper will conclude with how we can apply this knowledge and what conclusions we can draw. What is inquiry learning? When it comes to inquiry learning, the quote most often repeated is Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand. This quote is often attributed to a Chinese proverb. This proverb is at the heart of what inquiry learning is; its about discovering new knowledge by becoming involved in the learning process. Barab, Sadler, Heiselt, Hickey, and Zuiker define scientific inquiry as solving problems in a particular discipline using particular knowledgeable practices (2007). Learning the practices and how to implement those practices to solve a problem ensures a search for new understanding (Barab et al., 2007). Inquiry learning fits into the constructivist approach to learning. Balim states that constructivist approaches to learning such as using inquiry learning is effective because they construct their own knowledge (2009). He goes on to say Inquiry in science consists of experiments and inquiring natural phenomena by discovery learning (Balim, 2009). Ertmer and Newby describe constructivism as the creating meaning instead of other learning theories that

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see knowledge as acquiring it (1993). Balim and Ertmer & Newby both describe the common ground between constructivism and inquiry learning as creating new knowledge. Goodnough sees inquiry learning as an authentic form of assessment (2005). She sees the phases the learners go through as planning, reflecting, and action. These phases take place in a collaborative environment where learners work in groups to solve a problem. Learners are intrinsically motivated to learn because of their involvement in the learning. This involvement can be inspired by curiosity, a problem, scenario, or social factors. In collaborative inquiry Goodnough suggests that motivation comes from a common issue or concern in the group (2005). Why is inquiry leaning important? Inquiry learning in its several forms has shown to be an effective way for students to learn. A learner who gains knowledge through inquiry not only has the knowledge but can apply it to a problem (Barab et al., 2007). This ties in directly to the Chinese proverb of being involved and understanding. VanTassel-Baska states that in addition to inquiry learning being successful it is more authentic than other learning methods. This leads learners to seeing a more direct application of the learned material, more so than you might see by other learning methods. Neuman describes the benefits of inquiry learning as a natural setting instead of a situation that is set up (1991). This gives the learners the opportunity to learn in a lifelike environment. Balim points out that because of what inquiry learning is it requires learners to actively participate (2009). Learners who actively participate develop perception because of their need to understand what is happening. Their perception is utilizing their cognitive and physical skills.

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The whole process uses many different aspects of learning and encourages the learners to synthesize the material. How is knowledge gained in inquiry learning? Gaining knowledge in inquiry learning is similar to how knowledge is gained in constructivism. Ertmer and Newby point out that it is important to see pre-existing knowledge as flexible. This is important because as Balim describes learning happens by discovery, which prioritizes reflection, thinking, experimenting, and exploring (2009). Reflection, thinking, experimenting, and exploring require the learner to adapt and adjust their knowledge to construct new knowledge. Barab et al. see the knowledge gain in inquiry learning as more than knowing facts. The learners become as Barab et al. describes knowledgably skillful meaning that they can apply the knowledge they have gained (2007). What are the methods used in inquiry learning? Brunners method for inquiry learning was discovery. This method of learning involves a guided approach to discovering new knowledge (Driscoll, 2005). In addition to learning by discovery, Barab et al. see the value of inquiry learning in terms of the social impact (2007). Learners gain knowledge by finding social relevance and attaching that social relevance to the knowledge needed to solve the problem. Barab et al. example used fish health and water quality as so the social relevance because of the possible social factors that comes with this type of problem. Students then played a game where they investigated the problem and discovered solutions. VanTassel-Baska recommends asking questions that focus on memory/cognition, convergent, divergent, and evaluative areas (2013). The purpose of the questions is to engage the

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learners into using high level thinking to solve a problem. The problem a leaner would be presented with would be an open problem with many solutions. The questions build from facts and definitions in the memory/cognition area. The next level is convergent were learners are asked what happened. The third level is divergent were learners are asked to build on what happened by being asked what could have happened. Finally learners are asked to evaluate what the best solution would be. The learner goes form answering fact based questions to evaluating the situation. Where is inquiry learning used? Hein states that using museums for education has been the purpose since the first museum existed (2006). He goes on to say that the purpose of museums is for the public to teach, inspire, impress, or persuade audiences (Hein, 2006). Eshach shares a similar stance because museums provide opportunities for learning experiences that are hard to find anywhere else (2007). The term museums may be used as a generic term that also include science centers, zoos, aquariums and environmental centers. Bell Lewenstein, Shouse, and Feder conclude that these places need specially designed spaces that encourage scientific inquiry for learners (2009). Dragotto, Minerva, and Nichols have observed that museum education has changed over the years to fit the needs of the audiences (2006). The change in audience has been because of new research, national policy, and international events (Dragotto et al. 2006). Museum outreach to educators at schools needs to keep pace with these trends in learning and the audiences need. How can inquiry learning be applied to a museum setting?

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Inquiry learning in a museum setting provides learners an environment to apply prior knowledge to a hands-on activity. Eshach found that the experiences a learner has at museums have a positive effect on the learners future development (2007). Learners interests and motivation is heightened because of a rich learning environment. Similar to what VanTasselBaska suggested about inquiry learning in general, Hein sees museums as a precise way to enhance their skills in observation and reflection (2006). He provides examples where a museum can teach about the court system by creating an environment for the learners to act out the process or by studying rivers by recreating a river. Max Adler who was the founder and benefactor of the Adler Planitarium and Astronomy Museum is quoted as saying the museum is a classroom under the vault of heaven (Dragotto et al., 2006). Dragotto et al. took this a step further by stating that the Adler museum is more than a place to house artifacts we are here to interpret the Universe for the public and educators play a vital role as interpreters (2006). To interpret the knowledge the educators use inquiry learning to involve the learners. Dragotto et al. see a need for museums to have the staff that can engage leaners and provide an enriching experience (2006). What is the outcome of using inquiry learning in a museum? Bell et al. believe that inquiry learning leads to the learners seeking additional learning (2009). The learners seek additional learning because learning through inquiry provides enjoyment, relevance and is rewarding. Bell et al. identified the need to make the connection between the inquiry that scientist do and the inquiry that the visitor does at a museum. They suggest that if a young leaner makes a connection that the inquiry in both scenarios is very similar that they may be more interested in becoming scientist. In a similar manner, Eshach sees

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inquiry learning as a way to encourage an understanding of science as well as interests outside of school (2006). Hein recommends that museum exhibits have well developed interactives that engage the mind because that is an effective way to provide learners with inquiry learning (2006). Eschach cautions that just because an exhibit is hands on, it doesnt mean it is engaging the learner in scientific inquiry (2006). Interactives at museums need to be carefully designed to engage on not only a physical level but a mental level as well. Hein provides a noble goal of attempting to share the same social goals and accomplishments as the visitors in order to serve the visitors best interests (2006). Mobile museums are recommended by Eshach as the new way to bring inquiry learning to classroom learners (2007). Eshach suggest mobile or transportable museums because of the lack of funding and transportation issues that schools may have. Bell et al. are hopeful that technology will help inquiry learning to be quicker and more effective to design. Application and Conclusion Museums that are seeking new exhibitions should develop them congruent with the constructivist frame of mind. Specifically, the museum should incorporate inquiry learning into the interactives of the exhibit. My argument for this need is after reviewing these articles I see the purpose of the museums to not only inform but to encourage the visitors to apply what they learned in their life. Museums offer a safe place for a visitor to engage in learning as well as practice what they just learned. The practicing of what they learned is inquiry learning. They are taking prior knowledge and building new knowledge on top of that. Then they are taking that new knowledge

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and applying the process of inquiry learning. The inquiry learning is the visitor questioning, applying, observing and reflecting of their newly acquired knowledge. Using a form of organization such as the ADDIE model would provide an excellent path for museums to create a learning environment. The model could organize the learning and incorporate methods such as inquiry learning. The analysis stage would consist of identifying the purpose of the exhibit and generally how it will deliver the content. The design stage would incorporate specifics about how constructivism would be used and how inquiry learning would be implemented. The development stage would merge the theories with the content of the exhibit. The exhibit and interactives would be created at this point. The implementation stage would involve installing the exhibit and putting the inquiry learning into effect. Finally, in the evaluation stage the exhibit would be updated and modified to best suit the needs of the learners. An observation about inquiry learning is it is often used in groups rather than individual learners. I think this is because the amount of time it takes to prepare a lesson that involves inquiry. Involving a group such as a family could be a great way to deliver a discovery based lesson. By inviting the family to solve the problem a multiuser exhibit is created and that fits one of Eshachs characteristics for a good interactive (2007). Eshach identified six characteristics that make good interactives. An interactive should be multisided, multiuser, multi-outcome, multimodal, readable, and relevant (Eshach, 2007). Half of these characteristics are relevant to inquiry learning. Two are related to another theory, situated cognition. This is because of the social nature of an interactive being multisided and multiuser. The interactive promotes a community of practice when learning is done as a group with similar goals (Driscoll, 2005).

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The three characteristics that are relevant to inquiry learning are multi-outcome, multimodal, and relevant. These three support inquiry learning because they allow learners space to question and discover knowledge on their own. Multi-outcome allows for learners to test their ideas and see the unique results. Multimodal allows for a variety of learners at different levels to learn. Relevance is important because it connects the knowledge being gained and relates it to the learner by applying the new knowledge. As museums and exhibit centers create new exhibits I hope they design them using a methodical approach that involves a plan for how the visitors gain knowledge. I have found that inquiry learning is a great learning tool to provide the visitors. It allows for the learners to question and discover knowledge in a way that provides a deep level of understanding. It requires more than a sign and example in a display case. It requires an activity that the learner has the ability to question, test, and discover the knowledge. The learner needs to be involved and a main part of the learning. They arent just receiving knowledge, they are discovering it.

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References Balim, A. G. (2009). The Effects of Discovery Learning on Students Success and Inquiry Learning Skills. Eurasian Journal of Educational Research. Issue 35. pp. 1-20. Barab, S. A., Sadler, T. D., Heiselt, C., Hickey, D., Zuiker, S. (2007). Relating Narrative, Inquiry, and Inscriptions: Supporting Consequential Play. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 16 ( 1), pp. 59-81. DOI: 10.1007/s10956-006-9033-3 Bell, P., Lewenstein, B. Shouse, A. W., Feder, M. A. (2009). Learning Science in Informal Environments: People Places, and Pursuits. Washington D.C.: The National Acadamies Press. Retrieved from: Driscoll, M. P. (2005) Psychology of Learning for Instruction (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson. Ertmer, P. A., Newby, T. J. (1993). Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism: Comparing Critical Features from an Instructional Design Perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 6(4). pp. 50-72 Eshach, H. (2007). Bridging In-School and Out-of-School Learning: Formal, Non-Formal, and Informal Education. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 16( 2), pp. 171-190. doi: 10.1007/s10956-006-9027-1 Goodnough, K. (2005). Fostering Teacher Learning through Collaborative Inquiry. The Clearing House, 79( 2), pp. 88-92. Hein, G. E. (2006). Progressive Education and Museum Education: Anna Billings Gallup and Louise Connolly. The Journal of Museum Education. 31(3), pp. 161-174.

Neuman, D. (1991). Evaluating Evolution: Naturalistic Inquiry and the Perseus Project. Computers and the Humanities, 25(4), pp. 239-246. VanTassel-Baska, J. (2013). Curriculum Issues: Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment for the Gifted: A Problem-Based Learning Scenario. Gifted Child Today 36(1), pp. 71-75. doi: 10.1177/1076217512465289 Wilkins, A. (2011). The Story Behind the Worlds Oldest Museum, Built by a Babylonian Princess 2,500 Years Ago. io9.Retrieved from: