Author: Sydney Seese – Michigan State University, United States


  • Megan Halpern – Michigan State University, United States
  • Kathleen Hinko – Michigan State University, United States

Science demonstrations have long been a part of both formal and informal science learning, for which they have received both praise and criticism. In particular, studies of physics demonstrations have indicated that they do not promote understanding and retention of scientific concepts, yet they are still a mainstay of informal science learning as well as formal science education. Drawing on Dewey’s theory of aesthetics we demonstrate the value of an experience model in examining physics demonstrations, and more broadly, informal science learning. Using thick description of demonstrations and interviews with a group of undergraduate demonstrators, we unpack the experience model. Through the lens of Dewey’s experience, we view demonstrations as acts of expression that produce expressive objects with which audiences may have aesthetic experiences. Further, as Dewey suggests, expression and experience cannot be separated into their constituent parts, such as or emotion or understanding. We then further extend the experience model to help articulate the interconnected nature of six strands of informal science learning, produced by the National Research Council in 2009. These strands, which include excitement, reflection, and the ability to see one’s self as a scientist, did much to articulate the ways informal science learning has value beyond understanding and retention. The experience model continues this important thread of informal science research by showing not only the value of these other aspects of science learning, but also the ways that they are inseparable from one another and from understanding. We conclude these strands cannot be pulled apart individually to describe an experience. Instead, they work in concert to create a tapestry of experience for both viewer and demonstrator, linking them together. This fits the theme of the conference because we are transforming the relationship between research and practice, drawing on practice to inform a concept.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Insight talk
Theme: Transformation