Presenting a socio-scientific issue in a science and technology museum: Effects on interest, knowledge and argument repertoire

Magdalena Novak, Siëlle Gramser, Sandra Köster, Feliza Ceseña, Sabine Gerber-Hirt, Stephan Schwan, Doris Lewalter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many museums deal with socio-scientific issues—meaning topics with multiple perspectives and ongoing research, such as climate change, vaccinations, or livestock farming. As important and trusted sources of science education, museums can play a critical role in raising awareness about such issues. They tend to highlight the various perspectives on the topic and thereby are able to provide a balanced and impartial information presentation. Visitors are therefore confronted both with views that correspond to their own beliefs and with views that contradict their beliefs and are supported in developing an informed opinion on the respective topic. In our study, we used an experimental exhibition on the topic “animal husbandry” to investigate the extent to which, first, an exhibition visit in general and, second, how different picture captions affect knowledge acquisition and interest. We chose a between-subjects design with the factor conflict framing through picture captions. Whereas one group visited an exhibition in which the picture captions were formulated neutrally, another group read picture captions that emphasized the existing conflict. A control group, which did not visit the exhibition at all, allowed us to examine the general effect of the exhibition. As dependent variables, we chose interest and knowledge acquisition as common instruments of educational visitor research. However, we went one step further and used an innovative instrument: visitors' argument repertoire. We found that visiting the exhibition led to higher interest, knowledge acquisition, and a more balanced argument repertoire. Varying the captions had no significant effect. Implications and limitations are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-122
Number of pages16
JournalScience Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024


  • argument formation
  • interest
  • knowledge acquisition
  • museum
  • socio-scientific issues


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