Supporting parent-child conversations in a history museum

Tenenbaum, Harriet R., Prior, Jess, Dowling, Catherine L. and Frost, Ruth E. (2010) Supporting parent-child conversations in a history museum. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 80(2), pp. 241-254. ISSN (print) 0007-0998


BACKGROUND: Museums can serve as rich resources for families to learn about the social world through engagement with exhibits and parent-child conversation about exhibits. AIMS: This study examined ways of engaging parents and child about two related exhibits at a cultural and history museum. Sample participants consisted of families visiting the Animal Antics and the Gone Potty exhibits at the British Museum. METHODS: Whilst visiting two exhibits at the British Museum, 30 families were assigned to use a backpack of activities, 13 were assigned to a booklet of activities, and 15 were assigned to visit the exhibits without props (control condition). RESULTS: Compared to the families in the control condition, the interventions increased the amount of time parents and children engaged together with the exhibit. Additionally, recordings of the conversations revealed that adults asked more questions related to the exhibits when assigned to the two intervention conditions compared to the control group. Children engaged in more historical talk when using the booklets than in the other two conditions. CONCLUSIONS: The findings suggest that providing support with either booklets or activities for children at exhibits may prove beneficial to parent-child conversations and engagement with museum exhibits.

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