You are on page 1of 16

Volume 56 Number 1

January 2013

ARTICLE

The Right Kind of Wrong: A Knowledge in Pieces Approach to Science Learning in Museums
PRYCE R. DAVIS, MICHAEL S. HORN, AND BRUCE L. SHERIN

Abstract Research has highlighted the vast gulf that exists between experts and novices understandings of science, and how difcult it is to bridge this gulf. When this research is applied to the design of museum exhibits and outreach material, it becomes clear that there is a tension between being scientically correct and communicating effectively to a broad, diverse audience. In this paper we present a new approach to thinking about science learning in museums. Drawing on decades of research from the learning sciences, we argue that being wrong is an inescapable part of learning, and that not all simplications are problematic. Instead, being wrong involves the gradual restructuring of many ne-grained intuitive or commonsense notions that persist throughout the learning process and play an essential role in scientic expertise. We discuss the implications of adopting this approach for museum design.

INTRODUCTION The basic trouble, you see, is that people think that right and wrong are absolute; that everything that isnt perfectly and completely right is totally and equally wrong. Isaac Asimov (1989)

Within the scientic community, there is often a tension between the desire to publicize science and the belief that science in the public domain is intellectually suspect (Lievrouw 1990). Science is dependent on society for nancial and political support, and reliable knowledge produced by science is of practical importance for members of the general public. So it is in scientists best interest to communicate their work to a broad audience, and in the publics best interest to understand both established science and emerging research. However, once science leaves the controlled discourse of scientists it has a tendency to become simplied (Collins 1987; Latour 1987; Whitley 1985) in ways that scientists often think dumb down

their research, create misconceptions, and are generally wrong (Bell 1991; 1999; Dunwoody 1982; Groseclose and Milyo 2005; Moore and Singletary 1985; Stocking and Holstein 1993). In education and the learning sciences, there is a long history of research devoted to the differences between novicesthose who are inexperienced and relatively new to a particular skill or subjectand experts with extensive experience and training (see Chi, Feltovich, and Glaser 1981; Chi, Glaser, and Rees 1982). Much work has also been done in helping novices develop expert-level understanding (see Smith, diSessa, and Roschelle 1993). Over and over, this research has highlighted the vast gulf between expert and novice, and the great difculty in bridging this gulf. When these results are applied to the design of museum exhibits and outreach materials, it becomes clear that there is a potential conict between being scientically correct and communicating effectively to a broad, diverse audience. In the worst case,

Pryce R. Davis (pryce@u.northwestern.edu), Ph.D. candidate; Michael S. Horn (michael-horn@northwestern.edu), assistant professor; Bruce L. Sherin (bsherin@northwestern.edu), associate professor; Learning Sciences, School of Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University, 2120 Campus Drive, Evanston, Illinois 60208.

31

CURATOR THE MUSEUM JOURNAL

there may be a fear of presenting incorrect ideas or reinforcing common misconceptions. This fear may prevent otherwise insightful and innovative designs from reaching a public audience. In this paper we present an alternative view. Drawing on decades of research from the learning sciences, we argue that being wrong is an inescapable part of learning, and that not all simplications are problematiceven those that would make an expert cringe. In fact, many constructivist learning theories argue that providing learners with relevant simplications is not only justied, but preferable to a strict adherence to correctness (Clement, Brown, and Zietsman 1989; Sherin 2006; Smith, diSessa, and Roschelle 1993). Across the learning sciences, this insight has emerged in multiple places, and taken a variety of forms. Here, we discuss a conception of science learning called Knowledge in Pieces (KiP) (diSessa 1993). From this perspective, learning is not a process of replacing misconceptions with correct theories. Instead, it involves the gradual restructuring of many negrained intuitive or commonsense notions that persist throughout the learning process and play an essential role in scientic expertise (Sherin 2006). We discuss the implications of the Knowledge in Pieces perspective, both in terms of how scientic understanding is communicated to the general public and how to judge the success of such outreach.
SCIENTISTS AS EDUCATORS AND COMMUNICATORS

Historically, there has been a belief in the scientic community that respected scientists do not go public (Goodeld 1981). Many scientists feared being ostracized for discussing their research directly in a public forum (Branscomb 1981). The job of performing this task fell to non-scientist communicators such as journalists

or elite visible scientists who have already made a substantial mark in their elds and can therefore speak authoritatively to the general public without threatening their careers (Goodell 1977). Of course, other avenues for discussing science exist. Teaching scienceboth as a collection of facts and as a process for generating new knowledgehas been a fundamental aspect of formal education for over a century. The British Academy for the Advancement of Science (BAAS) advocated teaching and learning science as early as 1867 (Layton 1981). Dewey referred to science as knowledge in its most characteristic form, and went as far as to proclaim it the perfected outcome of learning (1916, 142). He posited that scientic reasoning represents the only method of thinking that has proved fruitful in any subject (Dewey 1910, 127). The push for science as a school subject was intimately tied to the promotion of science as a main focus of museums (Friedman 2007). In fact, the rst credited science teacher in British public schools, William Sharp, was also notable for his championing of local museums. Likewise, the rst Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, Joseph Henry, was a scientist. Since that time, scientists have had a major role in museum design, and have taken an active role in shaping how science is portrayed to the public. Today, many museums double as scientic research institutionsthe American Museum of Natural History even offers a Ph.D. program in Comparative Biologyand their scientists double as curators. On the whole, though, contact between scientists and the general public is only very occasionally direct, and most often several steps removed. Encouragingly, over the past several decades, popularization of science has become more acceptable, and scientists have been encouraged to engage directly with the public (Proctor 2009). Beginning in the early 1980s, the public understanding of science movement pushed

32

Article: The Right Kind of Wrong: A Knowledge in Pieces Approach to Science Learning in Museums

Volume 56 Number 1

January 2013

for a heavier emphasis on promoting science and technology to the general public, and sought to erase the stigma on scientists direct dialogue with the public. In 2003, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) CEO Alan I. Leshner, reafrming one of that organizations earliest goals, called for scientists and the public to engage in a more open and honest, bi-directional dialogue about science and technology. . . not only [about its] inherent benets, but also the limits, perils and pitfalls (2003, 997). On the heels of this declaration, AAAS and other science organizations began putting extra resources into educating scientists in effective communication strategies. During this same period, the rise of new media has made it much easier for any scientist, whether a celebrity popularizer or workaday researcher, to directly engage with the public. Social media such as Facebook and Twitter allow scientists to share their thoughts and opinions on new research in real time, and to interact with scientists and non-scientists alike. Blogs provide scientists with a space to discuss any topic at length. In fact, Seed Media Group (seedmediagroup.com) created a service called Research Blogging that allows bloggers to note when they are writing about peer-reviewed research. The service then collects and aggregates these posts for the rest of the scientic community. Additionally, the rise of digital audio les and portable media players has inspired hundreds of scientists and science organizations to produce weekly podcasts discussing science. While these new media outlets may seem revolutionary in their scope and openness to dialogue, most of them still function in fundamentally the same way as museums and other traditional informal learning environments. The main viewpoint shaping the content is that of the expert scientist. In contrast, social media has been advocated as a tool to move toward

more participatory models of visitor engagement (Simon 2010; Russo 2011; Proctor 2009), in which the role of the curator and scientist transforms from that of an expert to that of a collaborator (Proctor 2009). However, even in institutions that are consciously trying to shift authority toward a partnership between visitors and museums (Humphrey and Gutwill 2005; Gutwill 2008; Enseki 2007), scientists are still tasked with generating scientic knowledge, while museums stick to making that knowledge accessible to audiences.
THE TROUBLE WITH EXPERTISE

Conforming to the expert science viewpoint may not sound problematic. After all, who better to talk about science than the people doing research? But in terms of communicating effectively to a diverse audience, expertise has its drawbacks. To start, expertise tends to be localized. A biologist may be an expert in biology, but have no leg to stand on when talking about physics. In fact, the differences between individual domains and subjects of science are so great and complex that many conclude that there is no such thing as an expert in a single, overarching science domain (Rudolph 2003). Of course this should not present a problem, since scientists generally only work within their specic elds of research. But when communicating with the public, scientists rarely restrict themselves to their own narrow slice of expertise. They must draw on their personal knowledge of a variety of domains, subjects, and beliefs (Posner, Strike, Hewson, and Gertzog 1982; Kapon, Ganiel, and Eylon 2010; Davis 2011). Another difculty is that scientists perceive the world differently from non-scientists (Stevens and Hall 1998). They are so knowledgeable in their particular elds of study that they can have a hard time understanding what it means

Pryce R. Davis, Michael S. Horn, and Bruce L. Sherin

33

CURATOR THE MUSEUM JOURNAL

not to know something. This is often referred to as the expert blind spot (Nathan, Koedinger, and Alibali 2001; Nathan and Petrosino 2003; Koedinger and Nathan 2004). When experts attempt to educate others about their subject matter, they tend to use the formalized principles of their discipline to guide instruction. For this reason, experts have a hard time understanding what elements novices might nd confusing, and fail to recognize that axioms experts take for granted may not be apparent to novices. Becoming an expert often involves mastery of a specialized vocabulary with a unique set of denitions for ordinary words. Experts and novices effectively speak different languages (Lemke 1990). For example, experts may overestimate how easy it is to understand a formal representation such as a phylogenetic tree (Meir et al. 2007; Gregory 2008) or mathematical equations (Koedinger and Nathan 2004). Studies have even shown that experts have less access to memories of their cognitive processes when they are engaged in tasks within their domain of expertise (Ericsson and Smith 1991). In short, scientists have trouble seeing how they became experts, how they use their knowledge, and how they learned what they know. Recent research on teachers has taken this point further. Researchers suggest that expert understanding of a domain may be an insufcient qualication for teaching that domain (Grossman, Wilson, and Shulman 1989; Wilson, Shulman, and Richert 1987). Instead, the best teachers are those who develop robust pedagogical content knowledge (Shulman 1986; Ball, Thames, and Phelps 2008): useful ways of formulating a subject matter to make its learning less difcult. In other words, the best teachers are not just experts in their subject, but also experts in knowing how to teach their subject. Experts tend to view deviations from currently accepted disciplinary conventions as

wholly incorrect. By this we mean that experts tend to concentrate on the errors non-experts make, instead of the fruitful aspects of partially correct explanations. When scientists see a member of the public make a mistake, its easy for them to think of that mistake in terms of misconceptions that must be confronted and replaced with expert knowledge. Learning researchers back this up with a very large body of research devoted to illuminating misconceptions in a variety of domains (see Pfundt and Duit 2000 for review). Of course, learners do make errors, and limiting those errors is an important and worthwhile endeavor. However, viewing misconceptions as simply wrong raises problems for educators attempting to overcome these errors. For example, museums might feel pressured to adhere to strict scientically correct messages and might worry about accidentally imparting misconceptions to visitors. Many exhibits present visitors with rich explanatory text alongside counterintuitive phenomena, akin to a strategy of confront and replace. However, the limited success of such planned discovery exhibits have encouraged science centers and museums such as the Exploratorium to explore other pathways toward visitor engagement and discovery (Humphrey and Gutwill 2005; Gutwill 2008). These efforts are supported by several modern theories of learning that reconceive misconceptions not as faulty notions that need to be replaced, but as the building blocks from which expertise is ultimately constructed. In the remainder of the paper we discuss this alternative perspective and its implications for museums.
SEEING THE USEFULNESS IN MISCONCEPTIONS

The way researchers in the learning sciences think about misconceptions has evolved dramatically over the past 20 years. Prior to the

34

Article: The Right Kind of Wrong: A Knowledge in Pieces Approach to Science Learning in Museums

Volume 56 Number 1

January 2013

early 1990s, when researchers talked about misconceptions, theyexplicitly or implicitly made several basic assertions about knowledge and learning. The rst is that misconceptions are stable, widespread, and resistant to changean observation supported by signicant empirical research (Clement 1982; 1983). This means that rather than being momentary hiccups in a smooth learning process, particular misconceptions can persist before and after instruction in children and adults alike. The second assumption is that misconceptions interfere with learning because they are simultaneously awed and remarkably resistant to change. For example, it is argued that people fail to understand basic aspects of natural selection because they erroneously rely on teleological explanations of adaptationwhich suggest that organisms actively try to change to t their environment (Clough and Wood-Robinson 1985; Evans 2000; Lawson and Weser 1990; Mayr 1982; Tamir and Zohar 1991). Finally, this interference with learning means that misconceptions must be replaced. In particular, it has been argued that, for people to learn, they must confront their own misconceptions (Strike and Posner 1985). This is generally taken to mean that a learner must externalize a misconception, be presented with a competing expert conception, and replace the former with the latter. Beginning in the early 1990s, some researchers argued that there are problems with this whole chain of reasoning (Smith, diSessa, and Roschelle 1993). The crux of the problem is this: A basic tenant of all constructivist theories of learning maintains that new knowledge is built from existing knowledge (Piaget 1978; Vygotsky 1978), and so learning only takes place at the edges of what is already known.1 Thus, any account of learning which has the form delete the old knowledge, replace it with the right knowledge is no account of learning at all. A useful account of

learning must chart a path from novice to expert that builds on useful aspects of a novices knowledge, and gradually reshapes that knowledge into the expert form (Smith, diSessa, and Roschelle 1993).
KNOWLEDGE IN PIECES

The Knowledge in Pieces perspective (KiP, for short) provides a framework for constructing accounts of scientic learning that are consistent with constructivism. KiP is usually explained by contrasting it with accounts of scientic thinking and learning in which novices are seen as possessing their own naive theories, which are similar in form to expert knowledge, but incorrect from a scientic perspective (see McCloskey 1983). For example, McCloskey argues that people with no physics training intuitively hold a naive theory of motion that corresponds to preNewtonian impetus theory (1983). In this theory, a force applied to an object is understood as imparting an impetus to the object, which keeps its motion going. Absent the continuing force, the impetus gradually dies away, either on its own or because of the intervention of outside inuences. McCloskey argues that this naive theory is the source of misconceptions about motion and must be replaced with a Newtonian theory. Alternatively, researchers have proposed a perspective that has been described as knowledge in pieces, (diSessa 1988; 1993) conceptual ecology (Demastes et al. 1995; diSessa 2002; Strike and Posner 1992) and a systems perspective (Smith, diSessa, and Roschelle 1993). In the KiP view, prior knowledge is not so coherent or stable. Instead, knowledge is conceived as consisting of many ne-grained bits of knowledge. For example, diSessa argues that people with no physics training dont hold a coherent and consistent impetus theory, but

Pryce R. Davis, Michael S. Horn, and Bruce L. Sherin

35

CURATOR THE MUSEUM JOURNAL

that instead their knowledge consists of many small sub-elements he calls phenomenological primitives or p-prims (1993). These p-prims are the microgeneralizations that people abstract from their experience. Once established, p-prims dont disappear or become replaced. Many different p-prims can be activated and organized in the moment, in order to help people interpret their experience. P-prims, by themselves, are neither correct nor incorrect. They become correct or incorrect only in their application. For example, consider the p-prim more effort yields increased results. If this p-prim is applied to say that increased force yields increased velocity, this would be incorrect from the point of view of formal physics. But if the same p-prim is applied as a way to understand that increased force can yield increased acceleration, that usage would be correct. Furthermore, applications of p-prims that are incorrect from the point of view of formal physics are nonetheless highly adaptive for functioning in the real world. For example, if a child wants to push a heavy box across the oor, the child will probably be best served by proceeding under the assumption that increased force yields increased speed. Likewise, there is evidence that kids sometimes think about the shape of the Earth as being both at and round at the same timelike a hollow sphere with people living on at ground deep inside (something like a sh bowl) (Vosniadou and Brewer 1992). This is obviously incorrect, but the idea persists because it is useful for kids to go through their days treating the Earth as at since the part they live on is relatively at. Thus, according to the KiP perspective, kids have elements of knowledge that, in and of themselves, are neither wrong nor right. In science learning environments such as classrooms, these elements might be used to construct answers that are wrong (misconceptions) or

answers that a scientist would view as correct. Out in the world, the same elements can be employed in ways that are useful or not useful, given the demands of the circumstance. Moreover, even expert scientists persist in using elements of knowledge in ways that are, strictly speaking, incorrect. The difference is that experts know when precision is required, and when it is sufcient to reason more informally. For example, biologists frequently discuss evolutionary adaptation in terms of what organisms need to survive (Reiss 2011). Biologists might claim that non-experts use teleological explanations because they do not understand the science, while the biologists themselves use such descriptions to create simplifying analogies used for economy of explanation. Scientists understand the concept in pragmatic forms that allow them to use wrong knowledge in productive ways (Sherin 2006). Likewise, some physicists and chemists frequently lament the fact that, in popular culture, atoms are still portrayed using the Bohr model, the atom as solar system analogy (Fischler and Litcheld 1992; Nakhleh 1992; Ouelette 2012). The fact that this obsolete theory persists in popular culture might be frustrating to scientists, but they also understand how the Bohr model can function as a productive intermediary model in learning the quantum model (Grosslight, Unger, Jay, and Smith 2006; Kalkanis, Hadzidaki, and Stavrou 2003; McKagan, Perkins, and Wieman 2008).
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR MUSEUMS?

So what does all this mean for how we think about communicating science to the public in museums? The bad news is that communicating science in a way that results in deep learning is difcult and time consuming. Even the clearest explanations and the most obvious confrontation with naive conceptions can fail to produce

36

Article: The Right Kind of Wrong: A Knowledge in Pieces Approach to Science Learning in Museums

Volume 56 Number 1

January 2013

any meaningful or lasting change. Existing intuitive knowledge, meanwhile, is stable and resistant to instructionand for good reason. It is knowledge that works in the world and that is reinforced through everyday experience. Knowledge in Pieces suggests that the most we can hope to achieve are small learning outcomes that are incremental in naturethat slowly restructure, reshape, and connect existing knowledge. When we design exhibits to explain away or replace misconceptions, we are ignoring the active nature of knowledge construction and setting ourselves up for failure. We know that obtaining learning outcomes in museums can be tough. Pekarik (2010) argues that a focus on learning outcomes in museum evaluation emphasizes the passive acquisition of information and ignores the personally meaningful unintended consequences. But de-emphasizing learning as a goal in science museums means that we are no longer prioritizing attempts to help people access the kind of reliable knowledge about the world that scientists produce. This all might sound like a depressing outlook for learning science in informal environments (and formal environments, for that matter). However, one of the points we want to make in this paper is that from a Knowledge in Pieces perspective, we should not resign ourselves to small learning gains, but instead we should strive for and be encouraged by small gains in learning through exhibits and public outreach, even if the result of that learning is an understanding that is incorrect. One way to think about this is through the analogy of golf. At rst glance it might appear that the shortest way to the hole is a straight shot from the tee to the green. The problem is that the distance turns out to be much farther than it looks, and if the straight shot lands the ball in a sand trap, rather than on the green or fairway, our effort is wasted. Instead, the more productive strategy is

to put away the driver and make several shorter shots that reach the hole less directly but in fewer overall strokes. How does this analogy relate to learning? If you believe that people have incorrect theories comprised of a few principles, then you just have to swap out those principles to produce the desired learning outcome. This is the straight shot from the tee to the green. But if instead you believe, as we are arguing here, that there are many steps and intermediate states on the way to expertise, then there is a question of how straight your path might be. If you achieve small changes always strictly in the direction of correct expert knowledge, the learner might never pass through a stable state that allows for explanatory workresulting in a semi-perpetual state of confusion (all water hazards and sand traps) that abates in the rare occasions when expert-level understanding is achieved. On the other hand, the indirect path, because it relies on ne-grained, intuitive knowledge, might pass through stable and functional, albeit somewhat wrong, intermediate states. These shorter golf strokes may appear to be leading the learner away from the goal of correct knowledge, but are easier to hit with accumulated prior knowledge. Eventually the ball reaches the hole and learners are able to obtain the correct understanding while still retaining productive prior knowledge. Obviously, this is an imperfect analogy that puts less emphasis on the fact that productive learning often comes from personal meaningmaking resulting in multiple outcomes. Learning is a complex process that involves personal identity, social and material context, and idiosyncratic trajectories. A more accurate analogy would create a golf course with a multitude of holes, an innite number of tees, and personally dened fairways. But for our purposes in discussing the goal of experts, a single hole is

Pryce R. Davis, Michael S. Horn, and Bruce L. Sherin

37

CURATOR THE MUSEUM JOURNAL

enough to highlight the usefulness of the indirect path. Another reason to embrace the intermediate steps of small learning gains is that learning is not usually isolated in single events. Of course, there can be epiphanic learning moments (Gentner, Brem, Ferguson, Markman, Levidow, Wolff, and Forbus 1997), but most learning is small and gradual (Piaget 1978). Furthermore, many researchers have documented the way learning crosses contexts and how combining multiple instances of small learning gains has an accumulated effect that results in broader conceptual change (Ochs and Taylor 1992; Warren, Ballenger, Ogonowski, Rosebery, and Hudicourt-Barnes 2001; Zimmerman and Bell 2007). Museum research has demonstrated how museum visits impact learning in other contexts, such as home and school (Anderson, Lucas, Ginns, and Dierking 2000). So even if museums are not suited to be centers of high-order learning (Wellington 1990) they can still contribute important bits of larger learning gains over time (Falk and Dierking 2000). If we think about museum visits as a part of a system of learning events that together begin to add up to the cumulative learning, then offering memorable small steps of the indirect path might be preferable to targeting large shifts in understanding. Our question for museums is: What would an exhibit that attempts this less direct path look like?
DESIGNING IN MUSEUMS WITH KIP

Decades of research have discussed the cognitive, personal, and social nature of learning in museums (Anderson, Piscitelli, Weier, Everett, and Tayler 2002; Crowley and Callanan 1998; Falk, Moussouri, and Coulson 1998; Falk and Dierking 2000). Several studies have shown positive learning outcomes in single visits to museums (Borun, Massey, and Lutter 1993;

Fender and Crowley 2007; Guichard 1995; Diamond, Evans, and Spiegel 2012). Yet other researchers document difculty of deep science learning in museums (Allen 2004), and arrive at conclusions that are quite similar to our own (Falk and Dierking 2000). Because of this, we suggest that it might be worthwhile to draw some lessons from classroom intervention designs that are in line with the KiP perspective. Of course, the rst step for designing KiP-inuenced science museums exhibits would be to assess visitors current understanding. We stress that this does not mean we should perform short pre-visit surveys or close-ended interviews. Uncovering the ne-grained intuitive knowledge that visitors draw on to make sense of scientic phenomena might require visitor observations, think-aloud protocols, and indepth, open-ended clinical interviews. Clinical interviews in particular have been a widely used tool to uncover conceptual change and intuitive knowledge (Posner and Gertzog 1982), and they have been shown to make in-the-moment conceptual dynamics visible (Sherin, Krakowski, and Lee 2012). An iterative program of interviews can keep curators, exhibit designers, and docents aware of visitor thinking and help keep museums reactive to their visitors. The goal of this visitor research is not to nd out what visitors are lacking so that post-visit studies can evaluate an exhibits success. Instead, this research is meant to empower the designers to empathize with visitors and to recognize the useful ideas that an exhibit might utilize to aid in learning. Specics of designs are dependent on content, context, and visitor knowledge, but we would like to make some suggestions about possible strategies that might be employed. Some of the most successful instructional techniques that adopt KiP perspectives involve deep classroom discussions based around benchmark lessons (diSessa and Minstrell 1998; Hunt and

38

Article: The Right Kind of Wrong: A Knowledge in Pieces Approach to Science Learning in Museums

Volume 56 Number 1

January 2013

Minstrell 1994; Minstrell 1989; van Zee and Minstrell 1997). This strategy involves identifying concepts that students already understand and using deep classroom discussion to build from these toward target conceptions that more closely match a scientic view. While this sort of deep discussion may be difcult to achieve in museums, starting with concepts the learner understands, creating a safe exploration space, making thinking visible, and coaching toward a scientic viewpoint can all be modied to t with the museum space. These lessons can guide the choice of phenomena presented in the exhibit, how it is presented, the language of the labeling, and the role of the docent. Related to benchmark lessons, techniques suggested by Clement use anchoring concepts and bridging analogies (Clement, Brown, and Zietsman 1989; Clement 1993). Clement used thinkaloud interviews to document how students and scientists spontaneously use analogies to make sense of scientic phenomena (1987; 1988). In the KiP view, analogies function to activate productive resources (Hammer 2000). Clements strategy begins with a target problema difcult to grasp scientic question (for instance, whether or not a table exerts an upward force on a book placed on it). An expert conception of the problem and an understanding of learners intuitive conceptions allows us to derive an anchoring conceptone that is intuitively appealing, activates productive resources, and maps onto the target problem (such as a hand placed on a spring). Unfortunately, it is difcult for learners to see the anchoring concept and the target problem as analogous. So we must gradually move the learner toward the target problem through the use of bridging analogies, which are intermediate examples of the target problem that share features with the anchoring concept (for instance, a hand placed on foam, a book placed on foam, a book placed on a exible

board). Incrementally moving from intuitive examples to the counterintuitive goal gives the learner a concrete, productive, and easy to follow path to the target concept (in this case, the Newtonian idea of a passive force, which explains that the table does supply an upward force on the book). This basic model seems reasonably easy to transfer to a museum exhibit that guides visitors from an anchoring artifact through successive analogically bridging artifacts to a target artifact. For example, an exhibit wishing to help visitors understand the cause of the seasons might start with a model of a rotisserie cooker (emphasizing everyday understanding about directness of a heat and light source on a rotating object), then a ashlight projecting onto a vertical stick, then a ashlight projecting onto a tilted stick, and nally a model of the Sun and the Earth. Obviously these would require explanations, but they would likely cause less confusion than the nal model in isolation. Finally, KiP-related research on learners understanding of scientic representations argues that learners have intuitive ideas about representations (diSessa 2004; diSessa, Hammer, Sherin, and Kolpakowski 1991; diSessa and Sherin 2000; Elby 2000). This research suggests that instruction that involves merely explaining common representations (graphs, tables, and so on) leads to poor understanding and fails to take advantage of peoples metarepresentational competence, the full range of capabilities people have to generate, construct, critique, and rene representations. Instead, we should provide tasks that allow learners the opportunity to design their own representations in problem solving tasks. These meta-representational tasks engage the learner, encourage creativity, and promote sense-making in science (diSessa and Sherin 2000). Based on this idea, we are involved in an ongoing project to design

Pryce R. Davis, Michael S. Horn, and Bruce L. Sherin

39

CURATOR THE MUSEUM JOURNAL

a museum exhibit to encourage visitors to construct their own phylogenetic tree representations as part of a multi-level puzzle game (see Horn et al. 2012). For each level of the game, visitors are presented with a set of organisms and challenged to join them into a tree structure that reects their phylogenetic relationships. For example, visitors puzzle through the relationships of birds, lizards, and mammals on one level, and of mushrooms, people, and green plants on another. The levels get progressively more difcult, and there are often surprise outcomes (for example, that fungi are more closely related to people and all other animals than they are to plants). Our rst instantiation of the game was successful, in the sense that it was engaging and collaborative. However, it also provided less opportunity for visitors to reason through the representations that we had provided than we had hoped (Horn et al. 2012). A detailed evaluation conducted with visitors in a natural history museum suggested that subtle features of the game (and the ways in which visitors manipulate elements of the phylogenetic tree representations) play an important role in peoples ability to reason through their interactions. In particular, in the current version of the game, visitors construct phylogenetic trees by manipulating tokens representing organisms rather than the structure of the tree itself. This may sound like a supercial difference, but the focus on organisms seemed to activate many bits of knowledge about living things, but less knowledge about the relationships that tie them together. Furthermore, many visitors relied on the embedded gameplay features to decide whether their trees were correct. So instead of thinking deeply about the organisms, they quickly found the correct tree and moved on. Our hope is that later iterations will take full advantage of peoples meta-representational competence and intuitive biological

conceptions by adding manipulable traits as part of the gameplay and allowing visitors to create and justify their own trees (whether correct or not). We believe this will help them build a deeper understanding of the evolutionary relationship of organisms.
WHAT THIS DOES NOT MEAN FOR MUSEUMS

We have attempted to give a moderately thorough explanation of the Knowledge in Pieces perspective and how it might be adopted by museums. But limited space means an exhaustive description is impossible. So this paper is an exercise in what it preacheswere simplifying. To add a bit more detail, wed like to address some possible ramications of misapplying this perspective. First, embracing learners mistakes does not give designers the license to be sloppy. The point is to nd productive ways to use mistakes and intuitive understandings. This does not mean that we should ignore the accepted scientic understanding and sacrice the goal of being correct and clear in our explanations. The expert understanding should remain the ultimate objective, and not every simplication or error is a productive pathway to that understanding. Secondly, we are not making the argument that a single exhibit will be an effective learning environment for every learner. We are also not suggesting that individual differences make learningeven learning en masseimpossible. We envision museums as a system of mutually supportive learning environments. Paying attention to learners intuitive understanding allows designers to improve the ways in which exhibits reach deep learning, but not every exhibit will lead to deep learning for every visitor. A welldesigned exhibit increases the likelihood that at least one visitor will learn from it. Likewise, a

40

Article: The Right Kind of Wrong: A Knowledge in Pieces Approach to Science Learning in Museums

Volume 56 Number 1

January 2013

system of connected and well-designed exhibits increases the likelihood that all visitors will learn at least a little bit from at least one exhibit. Finally, we are not suggesting that museums should adopt a strict uniformity. We believe that if a museums goal is deep knowledge transformation, then designing exhibits based on the KiP perspective is necessary. But museums have multiple goals, and they should design exhibits based on multiple perspectives. For example, inspiring awe and excitement about historic scientic breakthroughs is an important role for museums (Bell, Lewenstein, Shouse, and Feder 2009) that might produce distinctly different kinds of designs. A museums strength and distinctiveness comes from the depth of experience it provides and the authentic artifacts that can be found nowhere else. We embrace the rich diversity of exhibits as necessary to engage visitors on emotional, personal, and cultural levels.
CONCLUSION

In this article we have introduced an approach to science learning in museums. Pekarik argues that a museum that attempts to uncover what people know about a subject in order to rene the cognitive message that is to be the exhibitions objective will have trapped itself within the model of outcome-based development, since it is likely to ignoreor not solicit, or not noticedata that points to the value of other, very different visitor goals, including those that are unrelated to ideas (2010, 108). Furthermore, he claims that if museums value the personally meaningful and a uid, dynamic understanding that is constantly seeking new articulation and is never the same, then we should move beyond learning outcomes as a goal (2010, 114). We value those same things, yet we argue that we cannot abandon learning as a goal in science museums.

Our goal is to encourage science communicatorswhether they are involved in traditional informal spaces like museums or in new outlets like blogs and podcaststo overcome the experts xation with what is right and wrong about what learners think. We want to move past concerns about misconceptions and embrace the productive ideas that non-experts have about scientic phenomena. In doing so, we hope to empower science educators and communicators with tools that allow them to focus on science learning while still paying attention to what is personally relevant and meaningful for the learner. By its nature, Knowledge in Pieces conceives of understanding as uid, dynamic, and constructive. We embrace the new modes of science communication that are personal, spontaneous, humorous, and dialogic. But in doing so, we believe that we cannot lose track of the importance of reliable scientic knowledge to our society. We should harness the power of those new modes, and do so in a way that retains END the centrality of science learning.

NOTE

1. As used by cognitive scientists, knowledge


refers to all of the mental representationsthe mental stuffthat is possessed by a person, whether it be right or wrong, well-formed or inchoate.
REFERENCES

Allen, S. 2004. Designs for learning: Studying science museum exhibits that do more than entertain. Science Education 88(S1): S17S33. Anderson, D., K.B. Lucas, I.S. Ginns, and L.D. Dierking. 2000. Development of knowledge about electricity and magnetism during a visit to a science museum and post-visit activities. Science Education 84(5): 658679.

Pryce R. Davis, Michael S. Horn, and Bruce L. Sherin

41

CURATOR THE MUSEUM JOURNAL

Anderson, D., B. Piscitelli, K. Weier, M. Everett, and C. Tayler. 2002. Childrens museum experiences: Identifying powerful mediators of learning. Curator: The Museum Journal 45(3): 213231. Asimov, I. 1989. The relativity of wrong. The Skeptical Inquirer 14(1): 3544. Ball, D. L., M. H. Thames, and G. Phelps. 2008. Content knowledge for teaching: What makes it special? Journal of Teacher Education 59: 389. Bell, A. 1991. Hot air: Media, miscommunication and the climate change issue. In Miscommunication and Problematic Talk, N. Coupland, H. Giles, and J.M. Wiemann, eds., 259282. Newbury Park: Sage. . 1999. Media (mis)communication on the science of climate change. Public Understanding of Science 3(3): 259275. Bell, P., B. Lewenstein, A.W. Shouse, and M.A. Feder eds. 2009. Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits, Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Borun, M., C. Massey, and T. Lutter. 1993. Naive knowledge and the design of science museum exhibits. Curator: The Museum Journal 36(3): 201219. Branscomb, A.W. 1981. Knowing how to know. Science, Technology, and Human Values 6(36): 59. Chi, M.T.H., P. J. Feltovich, and R. Glaser. 1981. Categorization and representation of physics problems by experts and novices. Cognitive Science 5: 121152. Chi, M.T.H., R. Glaser, and E. Rees. 1982. Expertise in problem solving. In Advances in the Psychology of Human Intelligence, R. S. Sternberg, ed. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Clement, J. 1982. Students preconceptions in introductory mechanics. American Journal of Physics 50: 6071. . 1983. A conceptual model discussed by Galileo and used intuitively by physics students. In Mental Models, D. Gentner and A. L. Stevens, eds., 325340. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. . 1987. Generation of spontaneous analogies by students solving science problems. In Thinking

Across Cultures. The Third International Conference, D. Topping, D. Crowell, and V. Kobayashi, eds. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. . 1988. Observed methods for generating analogies in scientic problem solving. Cognitive Science 12: 563586. . 1993. Using bridging analogies and anchoring intuitions to deal with students preconceptions in physics. Journal of Research in Science Teaching 30(10): 12411257. Clement, J., D.E. Brown, and A. Zietsman. 1989. Not all preconceptions are misconceptions: Finding anchoring conceptions for grounding instruction on students intuitions. International Journal of Science Education 11(5): 554565. Clough, E.E., and C. Wood-Robinson. 1985. How secondary students interpret instances of biological adaptation. Journal of Biological Education 19: 125130. Collins, H.M. 1987. Certainty and the public understanding of science: Science of television. Social Studies of Science 17(4): 689713. Crowley, K., and M.A. Callanan. 1998. Identifying and supporting shared scientic reasoning in parent-child interactions. Journal of Museum Education 23: 1217. Davis, P. 2011. Not every edit is a lie: The application of media knowledge in response to science-related reality television. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association. AERA 2011: New Orleans, LA. Diamond, J., E.M. Evans, and A.N. Spiegel. 2012. Walking whales and singing ies: An evolution exhibit and assessment of its impact. In Evolution Challenges: Integrating Research and Practice in Teaching and Learning about Evolution, K.R. Rosengren, S. Brem, E.M. Evans and G. Sinatra, eds. Oxford: Oxford University Press. diSessa, A.A. 1988. Knowledge in pieces. In Constructivism in the Computer Age, G. Forman and P. Pufall, eds., 4970. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. . 1993. Toward an epistemology of physics. Cognition and Instruction 10(2 and 3): 105225.

42

Article: The Right Kind of Wrong: A Knowledge in Pieces Approach to Science Learning in Museums

Volume 56 Number 1

January 2013

. 2002. Why conceptual ecology is a good idea. In Reconsidering Conceptual Change: Issues in Theory and Practice, M. Limon and L. Mason, eds., 2960. Dortrecht: Kluwer. . 2004. Metarepresentation: Native competence and targets for instruction. Cognition and Instruction 22(3): 293331. diSessa, A.A., D. Hammer, B. Sherin, and T. Kolpakowski. 1991. Inventing graphing: Metarepresentational expertise in children. Journal of Mathematical Behavior 10(2): 117160. diSessa, A.A., and J. Minstrell. 1998. Cultivating conceptual change with bench-mark lessons. In Thinking practices, J. G. Greeno, ed., 155187. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. diSessa, A.A., and B.L. Sherin. 2000. Metarepresentation: An introduction. Journal of Mathematical Behavior 19: 385398. Demastes, S., R. Good, and P. Peebles. 1995. Students conceptual ecologies and the process of conceptual change in evolution. Science Education 79(6): 637666. Dewey, J. 1910. Science as subject-matter and as method. Science 31(787): 121127. . 1916. Democracy and Education. New York: Macmillan. Dunwoody, S. 1982. A question of accuracy. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication 25: 196199. Elby, A. 2000. What students learning of representations tells us about constructivism. Journal of Mathematical Behavior 19: 481502. Enseki, C. 2007. Lets go to MY museum: Inspiring condent learners and museum explorers at childrens museums. Curator: The Museum Journal 50(1): 3340. Ericsson, K.A., and J. Smith. 1991. Toward a General Theory of Expertise: Prospects and Limits. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press. Evans, E.M. 2000. The emergence of beliefs about the origins of species in school-age children. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly: A Journal of Developmental Psychology 46: 221254. Falk, J., and L.D. Dierking. 2000. Learning from Museums: Visitor Experiences and the Making of Meaning. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira.

Falk, J., T. Moussouri, and D. Coulson. 1998. The effect of visitors agendas on museum learning. Curator: The Museum Journal 41(2): 107120. Fender, J.G., and K. Crowley. 2007. How parent explanation changes what children learn from everyday scientic thinking. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 28(3): 189210. Fischler, H., and M. Lichtfeldt. 1992. Modern physics and student conceptions. International Journal of Science Education 14(2): 182183. Friedman, A. 2007. The extraordinary growth of the science-technology museum. Curator: The Museum Journal 50(1): 6375. Gentner, D., S. Brem, R. Ferguson, A. Markman, B. Levidow, P. Wolff, and K. Forbus. 1997. Analogical reasoning and conceptual change: A case study of Johannes Kepler. The Journal of the Learning Sciences 6(1): 340. Goodell, R. 1977. The Visible Scientists. Boston, MA: Little Brown. Goodeld, J. 1981. Reections on Science and the Media. Washington, DC: American Association for the Advancement of Science. Gregory, R.T. 2008. Understanding evolutionary trees. Evolution Education and Outreach 1: 121 137. Groseclose, T., and J. Milyo. 2005. A measure of media bias. The Quarterly Journal of Economics 120(4): 11911237. Grosslight, L., C.M. Unger, E. Jay, and C.L. Smith. 1991. Understanding models and their use in science: Conceptions of middle and high school students and experts. Journal of Research in Science Teaching 28(9): 799822. Grossman, P.L., S.M. Wilson, and L.S. Shulman. 1989. Teachers of substance: Subject matter knowledge for teaching. In The Knowledge Base for Beginning Teachers, M. Reynolds, ed., 2336. New York: Pergamon. Guichard, H. 1995. Designing tools to develop the conception of learners. International Journal of Science Education 17(2): 243253. Gutwill, J.P. 2008. Challenging a common assumption of hands-on exhibits: How counterintuitive phenomena can undermine inquiry. Journal of Museum Education 33(2): 187198.

Pryce R. Davis, Michael S. Horn, and Bruce L. Sherin

43

CURATOR THE MUSEUM JOURNAL

Hammer, D. 2000. Student resources for learning introductory physics. American Journal of Physics, Physics Education Research Supplement 68(S1): S52S59. Horn, M.S., Z.A. Leong, F. Block, J. Diamond, E. M. Evans, B. Phillips, and C. Shen. 2012. Of BATs and APEs: An interactive tabletop game for natural history museums. In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems CHI12. ACM Press. Humphrey, T., and J. Gutwill. 2005. Fostering Active Prolonged Engagement: The Art of Creating APE Exhibits. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press. Hunt, E., and J. Minstrell. 1994. A cognitive approach to the teaching of physics. In Classroom Lessons, K. McGilly, ed., 5174. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Kalkanis, G., P. Hadzidaki, and D. Stavrou. 2003. An instructional model for a radical conceptual change towards Quantum Mechanics concepts. Science Education 87(2): 257280. Kapon, S., U. Ganiel, and B.S. Eylon. 2010. Explaining the unexplainable: Translated Scientic Explanations (TSE) in public physics lectures. International Journal of Science Education 32(2): 245264. Koedinger, K.R., and M.J. Nathan. 2004. The real story behind story problems: Effects of representations on quantitative reasoning. Journal of the Learning Sciences 13(2): 129164. Latour, B. 1987. Science in Action. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Lawson, A.E., and J. Weser. 1990. The rejection of nonscientic beliefs about life: Effects of instruction and reasoning skills. Journal of Research in Science Teaching 27: 589606. Layton, D. 1981. The schooling of science in England, 18541939. In The Parliament of Science, R. MacLeod and P. Collins, eds., 188210. Northwood, Midx., UK: Science Reviews Ltd. Lemke, J. 1990. Talking Science: Language, Learning and Values. Norwood, N.J: Ablex. Leshner, A.I. 2003. Public engagement with science. Science 299(5609): 977. Lievrouw, L.A. 1990. Communication and the social representation of scientic knowledge. Critical

Studies in Mass Communication 7(1): 110. Mayr, E. 1982. The Growth of Biological Thought: Diversity, Evolution and Inheritance. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. McKagan, S.B., K.K. Perkins, and C.E. Wieman. 2008. Why we should teach the Bohr model and how to teach it effectively. Physical Review Special Issue: Physics Education Research 4(1): 100103. McCloskey, M. 1983. Naive theories of motion. In Mental Models, D. Gentner and A.L. Stevens, eds., 299324. Hillsdale and London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Meir, E., J. Perry, J.C. Herron, and J. Kingsolver. 2007. College students misconceptions about evolutionary trees. The American Biology Teacher 69(7): e71e76. Minstrell, J. 1989. Teaching science for understanding. In Toward the Thinking Curriculum: Current Cognitive Research (1989 Yearbook of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development), L.B. Resnick and L.E. Klopfer, eds., 131149. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Moore, B., and M. Singletary. 1985. Scientic sources perceptions of network news accuracy. Journalism Quarterly 62: 816823. Nakhleh, M.B. 1992. Why some students dont learn chemistry: Chemical misconceptions. Journal of Chemical Education 69(3): 191196. Nathan, M. J., K.R. Koedinger, and M.W. Alibali. 2001. Expert blind spot: When content knowledge eclipses pedagogical content knowledge. In Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Cognitive Science, L. Chen et al., eds., 644648. Beijing, China: USTC Press. Nathan, M.J., and A. Petrosino. 2003. Expert Blind Spot among preservice teachers. American Educational Research Journal 40(4): 905928. Ochs, E., and C. Taylor. 1992. Science at dinner. In Text and Context: Cross-disciplinary Perspectives on Language Study, C. Kramsch and S. McConnellGinet, eds. Lexington, MA: D. C. Heath. Ouelette, J. 2012. Dont be dissin the Bohr Model! Cocktail Party Physics, a Scientic American

44

Article: The Right Kind of Wrong: A Knowledge in Pieces Approach to Science Learning in Museums

Volume 56 Number 1

January 2013

Blog, February 9, accessed at http://blogs. scienticamerican.com/cocktail-party-physics/ 2012/02/09/dont-be-dissin-the-bohr-model/. Pekarik, A.J. 2010. From knowing to not knowing: Moving beyond outcomes. Curator: The Museum Journal 53(1): 105115. Pfundt, H., and R. Duit . 2000. Bibliography: Students Alternative Frameworks and Science Education. Kiel: Institute for Science Education. Piaget, J. 1978. The Essential Piaget, London: Routledge. Posner, G.J., and W.A. Gertzog. 1982. The clinical interview and the measurement of conceptual change. Science Education 66(2): 195209. Posner, G. J., K. A. Strike, P.W. Hewson, and W.A. Gertzog. 1982. Accommodation of a scientic conception: Toward a theory of conceptual change. Science Education 66(2): 211227. Proctor, N. 2009. Digital: Museum as platform, curator as champion, in the age of social media. Curator: The Museum Journal 53(1): 3543. Sherin, B. 2006. Common sense claried: The role of intuitive knowledge in physics problem solving. Journal of Research in Science Teaching 43(6): 535555. Sherin, B. L., M. Krakowski, and V.R. Lee. 2012. Some assembly required: How scientic explanations are constructed during clinical interviews. Journal of Research in Science Teaching 49(2): 166198. Shulman, L.S. 1986. Those who understand: Knowledge growth in teaching. Educational Researcher 15(2): 414. Simon, N. 2010. The Participatory Museum, Santa Cruz, CA: Museum. Sinatra, G. M., S.K. Brem, and E.M. Evans. 2008. Changing minds? Implications of conceptual change for teaching and learning about biological evolution. Evolution Education and Outreach 2: 189195. Smith, J. P, A.A. diSessa, and J. Roschelle. 1993. Misconceptions reconceived: A constructivist analysis of knowledge in transition. The Journal of the Learning Sciences 3(2): 115163. Stevens, R., and R. Hall. 1998. Disciplined perception: Learning to see technoscience. In Talking Mathematics in School: Studies of Teaching

and Learning, M. Lampert and M. Blunk, eds. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Stocking, S.H., and L.W. Holstein. 1993. Constructing and reconstructing scientic ignorance: Ignorance claims in science and journalism. Science Communication 15(2): 186210. Strike, K.A., and G.J. Posner. 1985. A conceptual change view of learning and understanding. In Cognitive Structure and Conceptual Change, L. West and L. Pines, eds., 211231. Orlando: Academic Press. Tamir, P., and A. Zohar. 1991. Anthropomorphism and teleology in reasoning about biological phenomena. Science Education 15: 5768. Reiss, J.O. 2011. Not by Design: Retiring Darwins Watchmaker. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Rudolph, J. L. 2003. Portraying epistemology: School science in historical context. Science Education 87(1): 6479. Russo, A. 2011. Transformations in cultural communication: Social media, cultural exchange, and creative connections. Curator: The Museum Journal 54(3): 327346. van Zee, E.H., and J. Minstrell. 1997. Using questioning to guide student thinking. The Journal of the Learning Sciences 6: 229271. Vosniadou, S., and W.F. Brewer. 1992. Mental models of the earth: A study of conceptual change in childhood. Cognitive Psychology 24: 535585. Vygotsky, L. 1978. Mind in Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Warren, B., M. Ogonowski, and S. Pothier. 2005. Everyday and scientic: Rethinking dichotomies in modes of thinking in science learning. In Everyday Matters in Science and Mathematics, R. Nemirovsky, A. Rosebery, J. Solomon and B. Warren, eds. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. Wellington, J. 1990. Formal and informal learning in science: The role of the interactive science centers. Physics Education 25: 247252. Whitley, R. 1985. Knowledge producers and knowledge acquirers. In Expository Science: Forms

Pryce R. Davis, Michael S. Horn, and Bruce L. Sherin

45

CURATOR THE MUSEUM JOURNAL

and Functions of Popularization, T. Shinn and R. Whitley, eds., 328. Dordrecht: Reidel. Wilson, S., L. Shulman, and A. Richert. 1987. 150 different ways of knowing: Representations of knowledge in teaching. In Exploring Teachers Thinking, J. Calderhead, ed., 104123. Eastbourne, U.K.: Cassell. Zimmerman, H., and P. Bell. 2007. Seeing, doing, and describing everyday science: Mapping images of science across school, community, and home boundaries. Paper presented at the National Association for Research in Science Teaching.

46

Article: The Right Kind of Wrong: A Knowledge in Pieces Approach to Science Learning in Museums