Research and Formative Evaluation Suggest Support for Dialogue and Argumentation

Friday, February 15, 2013
Room 309 (Hynes Convention Center)
Elizabeth Kunz Kollmann , Museum of Science, Boston, MA
Provocative Questions was developed to increase visitors’ abilities to take part in dialogue about scientific issues involving societal aspects through the practice of socio-scientific argumentation skills. In creating these exhibits, the Museum of Science, Boston used research and evaluation to improve the exhibits and understand their abilities to achieve intended goals. Goals of the exhibition included:
  1. Visitors will be aware of science research applicable to varied views on the provocative question.
  2. Visitors will be aware of the different kinds of evidence that are frequently part of discussions of socio-scientific issues: scientific evidence, informal evidence based on personal experience, and societal values.
  3. Visitors will understand that one’s social values can influence one’s interpretation of scientific evidence as well as one’s position with regard to a socio-scientific question.
  4. Visitors will be aware that social decisions impact individuals differently because of their varied biological and environmental circumstances.
  5. Visitors will practice socio-scientific argumentation skills, which include:
    1. Discriminating between scientific evidence, personal experience/knowledge, and values,
    2. Exploring the values underlying different viewpoints,
    3. Reflecting critically about evidence from scientific research,
    4. Recognizing potential counterarguments to a given argument,
    5. Justifying one’s position by using informal and scientific evidence with one’s values and worldviews, and
    6. Integrating scientific knowledge into arguments of socio-scientific issues.
  6. Visitors will come to see themselves as someone who can contribute to and participate in discussions of socio-scientific issues.

While formative evaluation was used to improve individual components under development, area testing research was conducted after development on the components as a group. The purpose of this research was to understand whether visitors will engage in socio-scientific argumentation in an un-facilitated exhibit space and how the exhibits will impact their socio-scientific argumentation skills.

This presentation will discuss findings from the area testing research including what visitors learned through their experiences, how the exhibit impacted visitors’ socio-scientific argumentation skills, and whether interacting with the exhibit impacted visitors’ confidence in their abilities to participate in socio-scientific discussions. Additionally, the presentation will describe how, if at all, the evidence and claims visitors used led to differences in their arguments.