Part One
Present on Site:
Transforming Exhibitions and
Theme: Constructions
- intoduction

Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Theme: Questions
- introduction

Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Theme: Invisibles
- introduction

Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Theme: Openings
- introduction

Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24

Chapter 12:
What is the question?
Creating a learning invorenment in the exhibition

Is it possible to create curiosity and reflection at a science centre by stimulating and facilitating dialogue between 15–16-year-old students? The background for this question is the vast amount of studies showing that unstructured school trips result in little (if any) student reflection.

We used a dialogic approach to prompt student curiosity and reflection. Four students were chosen to participate in the study. One of the authors took on the role of facilitator and joined each of the four students on a visit to seven exhibits (pre-selected by the authors) and recorded the student interactions on video. During each visit, the facilitator made sure that the students understood how to use the exhibits so that technical/practical problems were not an issue. The researcher also conducted a brief interview adjacent to each exhibit to allow students to reflect upon their experiences. We also interviewed the four students one year later to find out how the dialogic approach had impacted them over a longer term.

The right question
A science centre is an experience centre, where visitors can experiment with models of scientific and technological phenomena and can be seen as an open offer to the visitor. But something that is open and maybe even very interactive and social perhaps does not succeed as dissemination or learning, because it is just so - open. What can be experienced at the exhibition may become somewhat isolated and an experience visitors find difficult to learn from and understand as something more than just what is on the immediate surface. It can be exciting or boring! It is like getting an answer to something where you do not know what the question is or where you certainly would not have asked one or were even curious about the topic. The British philosopher Alain de Botton stresses in his curious book, The Art of Travel, how important it is to have the right questions to ask the world, “Unfortunately for the traveller, most objects don’t come affixed with the question that will generate the excitement they deserve. There is usually nothing fixed to them at all, or if there is it tends to be the wrong thing” (Botton 2003:132).

One can easily believe that the setup at a science centre speaks for itself and is directly accessible - but is this the case? Our starting point is setups in the Experimentarium in Copenhagen, the Danish science centre, where we will explore the possibility of asking the right questions, i.e. ones that perhaps “… will generate the excitement they deserve”. Using a dialogical approach we will examine whether it is possible to create curiosity with an investigative and reflective behaviour in some visitors. At the Experimentarium four young visitors will encounter a selection of setups. Is there perhaps something that creates wonder? And what are “the right questions”?

Creating dialogue and reflection
To explore this wonder, the two researchers created a project designed to get students at science centres to engage in dialogue and thus reflect on their experiences. The dialogue is initiated by a guide who could be a teacher or a museum instructor. In our project the researcher will enter as a guide/conversation partner with one or more pupils (hereinafter called informants) and take on the role of participant observer. This model is inspired by Ingemann’s video-walks, where he entered into conversation with an informant in a museum based on a set of rules as a researcher (2006; see also chapter 8). Meanwhile, the informants wear a hat or glasses with built-in video cameras and microphones to record what they see and say and where they move. The conversation rules are to conduct a process dialogue, which is a conversation carried out on the informants’ premises about the setup of each new installation or setup. The researcher then performs a work dialogue, which is a series of questions about how informants have experienced the installation and what ideas they have come up with. Video and audio recordings represent the material used to reveal what the informants have experienced, including understanding the definitions and interpretations informants make (see chapters 9 & 10).

Based on Ingemann’s process and work dialogues, we have produced a design in which one of the authors takes the role of guide and interlocutor for four informants comprised of first-year high school students who are 16 years of age. The conversations took place at the Experimentarium, where the researcher (the one author) walked around the exhibition with one or two informants to seven pre-selected installations.

While walking, the researcher talked with and asked the informants about installations. The questions that the researcher asked were either open-ended and general or planned and therefore specific to the installation in question. The open, general questions were e.g.: “What do you think about this?”; “What would you tell your friends back in class about this installation?”; “What does this installation make you to think of?”; “Do you know if this phenomenon is something in your daily life?”; “Does it surprise you?”;and “How do you think this is possible?“

Planned, detailed questions create wonder images designed to help informants interpret the installation. A wonder image involves asking questions such as: “What if I say California and skyscrapers?” When this question is posed in relation to a setup about building earthquake proof buildings out of cinder blocks, the idea draws an association to California and skyscrapers, pushing the informant to wonder how such tall buildings can withstand earthquakes and what kind of building technique is necessary. Another example is to ask: “If I say headlights does that give you any associations?” These wonder images are related to an installation with dishes where two people can whisper to each other from many feet away across a noisy room (exhibition hall) and still hear each other because they each whisper through dishes directed towards each other. The dishes amplify the sound waves much like the light from ordinary bulbs in headlights is amplified by the dish behind it.

Selection of setups and informants
The seven exhibits selected represent a variation in level of complexity, popularity and academic content. Certain statements provide technical material that is not easily understood by visitors seven years and older, while other exhibits cover technical material easily understood by visitors seven years and older, i.e. there is a mixture of complex and simple setups (Boisvert & Slez 1995). Other variations consist in the availability of setup concepts. If the concept is clear from the actual three-dimensional appearance of the setup, it is ‘concrete’. If however reading a long text on either a label or a screen is necessary to begin using the setup and to understand what the point is, it is ‘abstract’ (Boisvert & Slez 1995). Another selection criterion is variability in popularity. An earlier study involving high school students and their interest and exposure to exhibits at the Experimentarium shows which exhibits are especially popular among this group and which ones are not (Quistgaard 2006).

The exhibits selected for this study with respect to variation in popularity are based on this study. The final selection criterion is related to variation in the academic content. The seven exhibits span a wide spectrum of academic content ranging from physics, geophysics and geography to physiology and psychology. For each of the seven setups we have prepared two to three wonder images similar to the ones about skyscrapers in California, headlights and parabolic shapes.
The four informants are two girls and two boys from two randomly selected classes in the local community near the Experimentarium.

Different learning styles
In all, the researcher did three walks comprising seven installations divided into two walks with one informant and one walk with two informants. The starting point of the three walks was that the researcher did not know anything about the informant’s prior knowledge and interests, thus preventing an a priori adaptation of the questions and wonder images to the individual. In addition to meeting each informant where they were, the researcher’s premise was that individual informant’s would each respond differently during the walk. The analysis of the dialogues shows that the four informants had different learning styles and were affected differently by the dialogue with the researcher with respect to their reflections, interpretations and understanding. We have used McCarthy’s (1997) four learning styles to characterise the informants. Based on Kolb (1984), McCarthy defines the following four types of learning styles as:

• Type 1: People with an innovative learning style are primarily interested in personal relevance. They need a reason to learn and like causes, linking the new information with their personal experience and establishing new information usable in their everyday lives. Some important teaching approaches that are effective for this type of learning are group work, brainstorming and interdisciplinarity (e.g. integration of science with social science or writing with visual art). In summary, type-1 people wonder, “Why do I need to know this?”

• Type 2: People with an analytical learning style are primarily interested in obtaining skills to enhance their understanding of concepts and processes. They are able to effectively learn from lectures and enjoy hearing about research, data analysis and what ‘experts’ have to say. In summary, type-2 people wonder, “What does this mean and what is the challenge for me?”

• Type 3: People with a ‘commonsense’ learning style are primarily interested in how things work. They like participatory activities and trying things themselves. Concrete, experimental learning activities are the best approach for them, i.e. working hands-on and using their bodies (kinaesthetic experiences). In summary, type-3 people wonder, “How can I use this in my life?”

• Type 4: People with a dynamic learning style are primarily interested in autonomous discovery. They rely pretty much on their own intuition and try to teach both themselves and others. Any form of self-study is an effective approach for these individuals. They also enjoy computer games; role-plays and games in general. In summary, type-4 people ask themselves, “If I do this, what opportunities will it create for me?”

The female informant who walks alone with the researcher, Cecilie, has a ‘commonsense’ type-3 style because her approach to interacting with exhibits and the dialogue is quite practically oriented. She wants to do, try and see what happens and test things using a hands-on approach. Kinaesthetic experiences that require the use of her whole body appear to act strongly on her. Setups where she uses or tests her own body appeal to her more than setups involving more reflection than action and that primarily relate to external phenomenon (external to her own body).

One of the male informants who walks alone with the researcher, Bert, is an analytical type-2 person, because he obviously enjoys obtaining new knowledge he can use in school. In general, he is quite focused on school and finds it hard to relate his experiences during the walk to everyday life or other situations outside of that context. He also appears to be uncomfortable and insecure in situations involving the start of a new activity. He immediately tries to get the ‘expert’ (the researcher) to tell him exactly what the meaning of the setup is and what the ‘rules’ for using the installation are before he is willing to engage in dialogue and answer questions. In the few instances where he realises he has misunderstood the task (although not a huge mistake), he seems almost to panic. After mastering the rules and convinced that he has understood the meaning of the task, he is completely confident and able to explain the phenomenon or concept at a high level. He is also eager to respond properly and is subsequently satisfied with his own abilities.

The two informants who walk together with the researcher are exceptionally innovative in their actions and words during most of their walk, so their overall learning style is defined as innovative type 1. The female informant, Anna, is good at reflecting on the way into an activity and before she starts an activity. She wonders for example of why a setup or action is relevant, which is quite typical for an innovative type-1 personality. She is also good at connecting various components, seeing contexts and relating the installations to other situations.

The male informant, Anton, is also good at reflecting during and after an activity and at trying to explain it. He is not as good as Anna is at connecting the experience to other situations, but is quick to catch her associations and follows her. He typically acts before he reflects; his learning style therefore seems to be a combination of commonsense and innovative as opposed to a purely innovative. The approach of the two informants to their interaction with one another however is exceedingly innovative. They often have lengthy dialogues with each other about what they do and why and involve and connect their experiences to personal experiences. They challenge each other, give support and brainstorm together.

The rotating planet and shake buildings to pieces
Our experiment shows that a question-promoting approach challenges the different routes to learning the informants represent. In the following we will show examples of how each of the four informants is influenced by the dialogue with the researcher. This part of our analysis uses two of the seven installations deemed to represent the variation among the setups. One of them is ‘The rotating planet’ (Ill. 12.1), which is about the influence of the Earth’s rotation on horizontal movements on a planet called Coriolis Force. The analogy presented in the setup is a carousel in the form of a hemisphere with an annotated map, which rotates clockwise (like the Earth) and a horizontal plate placed on top. When the visitor rolls a metal ball across the plate, it will deflect to the right because of the carousel’s leftward rotation (Ill. 12.2).


Ill 12.1: ‘The rotating planet’ illustrates the influence of the Earth’s rotation on horizontal movements on the planet, e.g. winds. Visitors roll metal balls across the horizontal plate on top of a huge hemisphere that functions as a carousel. The balls deflect to the right when the carousel, which represents the Earth, moves leftward.

Ill 12.2: A sketch of the deflection of the metal balls when they roll across the rotating plate.

The rotating planet is both complex and abstract, i.e. it is not an easy installation to use or to understand - not even for high school students. It has also proved to be among the less popular setups at the Experimentarium (Quistgaard 2006). The second installation, ‘Shake buildings to pieces’, is also among the less popular setups. With the exception of their shared lack of popularity, the parameters of the two setups differ significantly. The academic content of the setups deals with two completely different topics and ‘Shake buildings to pieces’, which is about earthquake resistant design techniques, is easy to use (i.e. concrete) and easy to understand (i.e. simple). There is a presentation that demonstrates how some types of structures are more resistant to seismic shocks than others. On a disc, visitors can make buildings and other structures with wooden blocks and sticks of various shapes and sizes equipped with Velcro on the sides to hold them together (Ill. 12.3). Once a construction is finished, the visitor can test its durability by pressing a button that makes the disc vibrate. Wooden sticks are used as cross braces in the strongest constructions (Ill. 12.4).


Ill. 12.3: ‘Shake buildings to pieces’ is about earthquake resistant design techniques. On a disc, the visitor builds a construction out of wooden sticks and blocks equipped with Velco to hold them together. When construction is finished the visitor can test its stability by pressing a button that makes the disc vibrate.
Ill. 12.4: A sketch of one of the informant’s constructions that proved to be earthquake resistant.

Dialogue with the informants
Bloom’s cognitive taxonomy, which has six levels ranging from “… the simplest to the most complex and from the known to the unknown …” (Dolin 2006), was used to analyse how informants were influenced by and responded to our question-promoting approach. The following section explains how the six levels: 1) knowledge, 2) understanding, 3) application, 4) analysis, 5) synthesis and 6) evaluation were used to assess the informants’ statements when exposed to the rotating planet and shake buildings to pieces.

The rotating planet
Initially, at the rotating planet setup, Cecilie is not especially reflective about why the metal balls are deflected to the right, but the question-promoting approach puts her in the process of reflecting on what she is experiencing. The progression of her statements while in dialogue with the researcher clearly illustrate that she is moving from not knowing or understanding the phenomenon to analysing and diagnosing why it happens. For instance, she furiously works to get the balls to roll straight across the plate and regards the fact that they get deflected as an error. This is also the case even though the researcher makes her aware that they are, “… sitting on something that turns” and this “… gives some picture of what’s happening”. She replies simply, “Yeah, yeah - sure. It's very strange, but I don’t ...” At this point she interrupts herself and has nothing more to say about what she has experienced. She begins a verbalised thought process only when the researcher, after a slight pause, asks her if she knows, “… why the balls are rotating to the right”. Her first reflection is at the simplest levels of Bloom’s taxonomy namely, knowledge (level 1), which is to remember and reproduce. She reproduces the researcher’s assertion that they are on something that turns and that this might have something to do with the deflection. But then she is moving in the direction of that deflection having something to do with attraction.

Through the researcher’s questions and presentation of wonder images, Cecilie reaches the analysis level (level 4) during their dialogue. One of the wonder images is that the informant should try to imagine being on a carousel and standing at the centre of its axis. At the same time another person, called B, is on the edge of the carousel and a third person, called C, is to the right of B, also near the edge. Next, the informant should picture what happens if she throws a ball to B. If the carousel were stationary, B would catch the ball, but if the carousel was rotating to the left, C would catch the ball even though it was aimed at B. This wonder image and other questions triggered Cecilie’s ability to analyse the situation and come up with, “… it is not really the ball that is skewed; it’s just the target itself and the base area that moves”. She does not reach a higher level of taxonomy than analysis, since she is unable to relate and generalise her analysis to other contexts, which would be characteristic for the next level: synthesis.

The other informant who walked alone with the researcher, Bert, did not seem as uncomfortable and unsure of himself when he and the researcher entered into a dialogue about the rotating planet. Already familiar with the phenomenon, he demonstrates how the ball will rotate to the side, which also indicates that his starting level is clearly higher than Cecilie’s. We have interpreted his level to be understanding (level 2) because he is able to describe and recognise the phenomenon. His incorrect explanation about the force of gravity however shows that he is unable to interpret or apply the phenomenon, which is entirely due to Earth’s rotation. Bert’s view is a misconception or everyday understanding that can be addressed by confronting it. The researcher tries to help him by using the question-promoting approach and using wonder images. To achieve level 3, the researcher encourages Bert to think about how it would feel on his own body by asking leading questions such as, “Is there anything you can connect to your daily life?” The result is that he reaches levels 4-5, analysis and synthesis. For example he refers to wonder images such as hurricanes in the Caribbean[1] and the west wind [2]. Especially wonder images of the west wind give him an understanding of how the Earth’s rotation controls the global wind systems and how this relates to what he experiences when he rolls a ball across the plate on top of the rotating carousel. The researcher had to work hard to encourage his thought process and often had to reformulate questions several times, resorting to new wonder images and giving a bit of explanation to get the informant to reflect. Evidently, this informant has a need to feel safe before he throws himself into reflecting.

The two informants, who walked together, Anna and Anton, reached a cognitive understanding of the rotating planet that approached the highest level of the cognitive taxonomy. Like Bert, Anna and Anton do not initially reflect on why the bullets deflect. But triggered by the researcher’s wonder images on the carousel and a ball being thrown, they begin to connect deflection with the rotation of the carousel. They are also aware that it is not the ball’s direction that changes or is influenced by something, but the ground moving under the ball. This recognition shows that they have achieved cognitive level 3, application, in the taxonomy. They climb toward the next level when Caribbean wonder images about hurricanes that always rotating clockwise are included. This leads Anna and Anton to think about whether the Earth’s rotation causes water to swirl when it drains from a bathtub. A bathtub is a small system influenced by local factors so their guess is not entirely correct, but the association leads to an interesting dialogue between the two informants, where they jointly reflect, analyse and compare. The researcher upgraded the level of the dialogue as appropriate by providing counter questions for the informants that forced them to reflect on their own statements and that encouraged them to continue in a particular direction.

The wonder images of the west wind bring Anna and Anton up to taxonomy level 6, evaluation, because the images and questions from the researcher lead to a dialogue in which they relate to the whole planet as a system, including differences between the northern and southern hemispheres in terms of wind systems and the sun’s position relative to the compass. They are critical and evaluative in their reflections and they contrast and evaluate their own, each other’s and the researcher’s statements, which is characteristic of level 6. Anna led the way in their progression, contributing significantly to Anton’s recognition process.

Shake buildings to pieces
In the earthquake setup, Cecilie immediately starts making buildings to test a variety of constructions. Beginning at level 1 of the taxonomy, she talks about which constructions work and which ones do not. When the researcher introduces wonder images of skyscrapers in California, i.e. how can there be skyscrapers in an earthquake zone such as California, she begins to reflect more on her experience. She demonstrates both use and analysis by relating her experience to her own knowledge and experiences and by consciously using and expressing her acquired knowledge to build new and improved designs.

Bert does not immediately start building anything, but waits until he has received help from the researcher and feels sure about what the purpose is and what he must do. He begins at taxonomy level 3, application, because he considers various techniques such as the advantageous of not building too high, i.e. he applies and interprets the knowledge he has. The researcher uses this reflection as a springboard to apply the California skyscraper wonder images to question the informant’s interpretation, which subsequently entails a series of reflections in which the informant analyses and tests different ideas and relates them to self-knowledge. The dialogue with the researcher puts Bert at level 4, analysis.

A similar process occurs with Anna and Anton, who immediately begin building just at Cecilie did, quickly reaching level 3, application. The difference compared to the individual informants who walked alone with the researcher is that Anna and Anton make more verbal reflections on and interpretations of their experiences, apparently because they are together and engage in dialogue with each other. Like the other two, Anna and Anton also remain in the situation and are unable to independently come out of the context, analyse their experiences or relate them to other contexts. They remain at the application level until the researcher gives them the wonder images on skyscrapers, which again has the same power to initiate a series of analytical and related reflections. For example Anna connects her experiences with and reflections on the building techniques used in the World Trade Center, mentioning that construction errors could have been the cause of the Center’s collapse during the 2001 terrorist attack on the US.

One year later
To explore how the informants have been affected by their walks with the researcher in the longer term, we interviewed the four informants a year later. The interviews occurred at their respective schools and were carried out by the same researcher who had walked with them. The procedure for the four interviews was to get the informants to describe their experiences of the walk, including the exhibits they interacted with; what they remembered about them and how these experiences had affected them since. Then they were presented with photos of all the installations and again asked to describe what they remembered. Overall, the four informants remembered a good deal of their walks, although three of them needed photographs to jog their memories. Cecilie remembers six out of seven of the installations on her own without the help from photos, in contrast to the others, who only independently remember three or four installations. Besides remembering large parts of their experiences, the walks do not seem to have influenced Cecilie and Anton into changing their behaviour. Cecilie however has thought about and can explain and identify the academic points from two of the seven installations while Anton can explain and identify parts of the academic points from two setups.

Bert and Anna, in contrast, were affected in terms of changed behaviour and this is with regard to their interaction and dialogue on the rotating planet. Bert applied the knowledge he acquired on the relationship between the west wind and the Earth’s rotation in a geography test at school almost a year after the walk. He recalls clearly the influence of the Earth’s rotation on horizontal movements, such as wind systems, and moreover, he has thought about this phenomenon several times. It seems clear that there may not be other sources for his understanding than the walk at the Experimentarium. Also, Anna has been affected in relation to the rotating planet and, like Bert, she has applied the knowledge she gained in a school context. Approximately four months after the walk, she was in physics class, where she explained the link between the Earth’s rotation and wind systems. She also exhibits a clear recollection of the phenomenon and has thought about it several times since. Again, there seems to be no other source of understanding than the walk at the Experimentarium.

The method of creating dialogue, raising questions and using wonder images has an immediate impact on the actual experience in the moment - but surprisingly it has also created a memory of the situation that is apparently stored as more permanent knowledge and understanding.

Can science centres serve as learning spaces?
It is increasingly common for schools to see science centres as a learning space. Despite the schools’ growing interest, it is not unambiguously a good idea to spend a full or half day visiting a science centre. Some studies show that to be permanently affected in terms of interests and skills, the students at science centres need preparation and dialogue and to be given direction during the visit as well as follow-up activities (Rennie & McClafferty 1995; Griffin 2004; Frøyland & Langholm 2009). The dialogue aspect is to some extent met during family visits, since parents often act as guides for the children by reading the explanatory text, which then becomes a starting point for talking about and using a given installation and by building bridges between the exhibits being experienced and the children’s existing knowledge (Borun et al. 1996; Ash 2003).

This professional dialogue rarely takes place when students visit a science centre. For instance, a Swedish study shows that students are not able to translate their fascination of the setups to curiosity and to subsequently ask themselves questions. As a result they never reach the point where they begin to seek an explanation (Axelsson 1997). A similar study reinforces the importance of guided dialogue through school visits to science centres. This study shows that high school students left to freely interact with installations without guidance or interference from their teacher or a guide engage in the process and seem to have fun, but they make only a few reflections on their own interactions during the visit (Quistgaard 2006). Other studies show that teachers rarely either prepare or guide their students during visits to science centres and they do not work with the visit subsequently (Sorensen & Kofod 2004; Griffin & Symington 1997).

In summary, science centres are good at creating an engaging experience for schoolchildren, but it takes more than the actual interaction with setups to create lasting interests and experiences. In other words, it is difficult for students to translate the experience into reflection. This study has tried to challenge this problem by implementing a specific design to provoke a different behaviour, i.e. reflective behaviour.

This project demonstrates that students who are guided or helped by questions and wonder images manage to reflect on and process their experiences and relate them to other contexts much more than students left to their own resources without a guide or teacher. We have shown that the question-promoting approach encourages students to reach even high levels in Bloom’s cognitive taxonomy, and that long-term effects can be detected. At first glance the long-term effects do not seem overly impressive, since they primarily relate to one of seven installations, but a study of comparable informants not guided or helped during a visit to Experimentarium revealed that one year later they had not thought about the visit or were unable to recall academic points about the installations they had seen and experienced (Quistgaard 2006).

We have also shown that the question-promoting approach can take into account the pupils’ different learning styles, because the guide, who in this study was the researcher, but who could just as well have been a teacher or museum guide, can adapt the questions asked. This can be done by providing a bit of explanation and then adding additional information if the student has concerns or to relate it to the learner’s own statements and thus stimulate reflection. The questions can also be designed to help students break out of the context and relate their experiences to other contexts and thus increase the likelihood that they will transfer what they experience at the science centre to other contexts like school or everyday life.

The limitation of this study is that it was performed on only one or two students at a time. In reality, teachers are responsible for 25-30 students when they visit a science centre. The approach used in this study is not necessarily applicable to large groups. We propose that the method can be organised and used in other ways, e.g. the teacher can divide the class into groups and either walk around between the groups and guide/help the students by using the question-promoting approach and/or appoint a guide to each of the smaller groups. The latter suggestion would require having practiced prior to visiting the science centre. A third possibility, which would complement the suggested approach for teachers nicely, would be trained guides provided by the science centres who would go around to small groups and practice the method with them. We have shown that this method has potential and that it is much more productive for a teacher or guide to ask students questions than to let them walk around freely. It is our hope that teachers and guides will be inspired by our research to try the method and different approaches outlined here.

What questions should be asked at an art museum?
At a science centre, it is quite obvious what the academic content of each installation is and thus perhaps also the type of questions that can be posed. But what about an art exhibition? Is it so simple there? Can questions facilitate the dialogical processes, and if so how and in what way does it make sense to try the approach described in this chapter? Given Ingemann’s video-walk at an art museum, we will briefly try to relate our results to art museums (Gjedde & Ingemann 2008:75-96). Ingemann has identified four fields in the visitor’s experience at an art museum: action, knowledge, emotion and values, each of which corresponds to categories that constitute the experience, but also that allow thinking in learning spaces that can be supported in the dialogical process.

If visitors can remain in a learning space where another person focuses their attention to create space for questions that can go into, around and between works, visitors can create meaning. The use of Ingemann’s video-walk at an art exhibit shows that a guide can create this space by asking visitors questions that make them go into, around and in between the artworks (Gjedde & Ingemann 2008:75-96). In this way visitors are stimulated to ask questions about the works that are meaningful to them, thus helping them to make sense of the experience. The question-promoting approach therefore also seems to be fruitful in art museums (see also Venke, Illeris & Örtegren 2009).

The literature shows that students at science centres need help to make sense of installations. In this case study we have shown that one possible means is a question-promoting approach, where a museum guide, teacher or other party enters into a dialogue with students and uses wonder images to encourage students to interact and explore their ideas. As demonstrated in this study, this approach makes students ask questions about the setups and relate their experience to other contexts, thus causing them to reflect on and make sense of their experience. Furthermore, our study indicates that the question-promoting approach accommodates students with different learning styles and thus different approaches to developing exhibits at a science centre.

Ingemann’s art museum video-walk suggests that a similar approach could be fruitful at art museums and perhaps even more so because art museums are at times more exclusionary than science centres.
The goal is to find questions that get visitors to self-question and reflect in order to help them give their museum experiences meaning. Another goal involves meeting visitors where they are. The questions to be asked are not to be asked of the museum but to be asked of and by the visitors.


[1] Caribbean hurricanes, frequently covered in the media, are tropical cyclones, which consist of thunderstorms and wind that begin to rotate because of the earth’s rotation. In the Caribbean, which is in the northern hemisphere, hurricanes always rotate to the right, which is visible on satellite images, because of the Earth’s leftward rotation.
[2] The reason why the west wind is dominant in our part of the world is the Earth’s westward rotation. If the Earth did not rotate, global wind systems would be guided by the air warmed at the Equator that would subsequently rise up and flow toward the cold poles. This would result in a dominant wind direction in the Northern Hemisphere from south to north because the Earth’s rotation deflects the northbound wind to the east. Because winds are named based on their origin and not where they are heading, this wind is called the west wind.


The first version of this chapter was written in close collaboration with post-doc Nana Quistgaard, PhD.

    © Chapter from the book:
Ingemann, Bruno (2012): Present on Site. Transforming Exhibitions and Museums, Lejre: Visual Memory Press. 396 pages, 147 illustration, printed in colour.