Parent-Child Conversations about Evolution in the Context of an Interactive Museum Display



The theory of evolution by natural selection has revolutionized the biological sciences yet remains confusing and controversial to the public at large. This study explored how a particular segment of the public – visitors to a natural history museum – reason about evolution in the context of an interactive cladogram, or evolutionary tree. The participants were 49 children aged four to twelve and one accompanying parent. Together, they completed five activities using a touch-screen display of the phylogenetic relations among the 19 orders of mammals. Across activities, participants revealed similar misconceptions to those revealed by college undergraduates in previous studies. However, the frequency of those misconceptions was attenuated by the level of parental engagement, particularly the frequency of turn-taking between parents and children. Overall, these findings suggest that evolutionary reasoning may be improved by the kinds of collaborative discussions fostered by interactive museum displays, so long as the affordances of those displays encourage multi-user interactions.


Conceptual Development, Evolution Understanding, Parent-Child Conversation, Informal Learning Environments, Science Education.

Paper Details

Paper Details
Topic EU Education Programs
Pages 27 - 46
Issue IEJEE, Volume 5, Issue 1, Special Issue Learning and Instruction in the Natural Sciences
Date of acceptance 01 October 2012
Read (times) 523
Downloaded (times) 207

Author(s) Details


Occidental College, United States

Isabel CHECA

Occidental College, United States


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