Department of Educational Psychology


Date of this Version



VSA Article #2 - Evans 2009


Copyright 2009 by the authors


Complex ideas like evolution—which run counter to common, but mistaken, intuitive knowledge like the 9-year-old’s quoted above—are challenging, both for exhibit developers and for the evaluation and research teams who assess the impact of exhibitions. It is always difficult to document measurable changes in deep conceptual understanding following a single visit to an exhibition (Allen, 2008, p. 58); Is this even possible with complex topics, such as evolution? In this article, we summarize a series of studies that may offer some help to exhibit developers and evaluators, as well as others who design and assess informal learning experiences. The studies chart changes in visitors' learning based on a framework that integrates findings from recent studies on age-related changes in children's conceptual understanding —a developmental framework—with findings from studies on free-choice learning.