Student Engagement Is Not Student Learning

Credit: iStock.com/skynesher
Credit: iStock.com/skynesher
When my son was growing up, my wife and I bought memberships at the local science museum so we could take him there any time we wanted. Like many parents, we wanted him to grow up in an intellectually stimulating environment. No vacuous video games for him. The more time I spent at the science museum, though, the more I wondered whether my son was learning anything meaningful. I found that science museums excel at engagement, but they may not be that good for learning. Museum exhibits usually offer people something fun or interesting to do, like lying on a bed of spikes, creating smoke rings, or building a catenary arch of blocks. People enjoy doing the exhibit, but do they learn about the science and math being demonstrated? Usually there is a panel on the exhibit explaining what is going on, but few (children or adults) stop to read it. They are on to the next exhibit. People’s attitudes seem to be more “What does this exhibit do?” than “What can I learn from this exhibit?”

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