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Title: Encounters with exhibits : a study of children’s activity at interactive exhibits in three museums
Author: Meisner, Robin Stephanie
Awarding Body: King's College London (University of London)
Current Institution: King's College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2007
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This thesis develops arguments relevant to learning in informal environments about the nature of the activity, interaction and collaboration that emerge in young children (ages 4-12) at specific interactive exhibits in informal learning institutions. Using video recordings of children's activity at ten different interactive exhibits as principal data, this thesis seeks to unpack the notion that children are merely 'just playing' with, at and around the exhibits - or, put differently, it aims to specify the activity behind 'interactivity'. In so doing, it explores the ways in which the diverse forms of social interaction occurring at the exhibit face contribute to and might enable the emergence of specific forms of activity. A case is made for the use of two distinct analytic methods in order to address, firstly, what behaviours are displayed by young children at the exhibits studied, and then, how and why aspects of those behaviours emerge in the particular manner in which they do. Sources from education, cognitive development and developmental psychology are used in the development of a theoretically and empirically driven coding schema that is applied systematically to the video data to begin to address 'what' behaviours are displayed - the first question. Subsequently, building on an interactional perspective that gives primacy to the pervasive nature of the contributions of others - to social interaction - the 'how' and 'why', or second questions are addressed. To this end, an analysis that draws on ethnomethodology and conversation analysis is used to explore the role of observation and imitation in the children's activity at the exhibit face. The final chapter reflects upon the observations and findings of the whole study to consider their implications for potential learning at and the design of interactive exhibits. It explores the extent to which the design of exhibits might enable particular forms of activity and co-participation, and puts forth design sensitivities for exhibit designers to consider. It offers a critique of the two analytic methods and their potential utility for future research. And, finally, it seeks to show that when children's activity at exhibits is analysed in detail, children who are seen to be 'just playing' are indeed engaged in a range of productive actions and interactions.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available