Paying more attention to paying attention

June 8th, 2010 by Wendy Pollock

Visitors take time in the RACE exhibition, in this case at an exhibit called "Where Do You Sit in the Cafeteria?"Join an online discussion, June 14–28, with Beverly Serrell, evaluator and veteran observer of science centers and museums, public gardens, and aquariums. In a recent article,  “Paying More Attention to Paying Attention,” she analyzes tracking-and-timing studies from more than 100 exhibitions and offers observations about the characteristics of what she calls “thoroughly used exhibitions.” As she notes, “Time spent paying attention is a prerequisite for learning, and studies have shown a positive relationship between the amount of time spent in an exhibition and learning.” Her observations are suggestive not only for designers of place-based science learning experiences, but for those who study learning across the informal science education field.

To join the week-long discussion and share your experiences, go to, set up an account, find the “CAISE Forum,” and enroll yourself using the word “informal” as the enrollment key. If you need help, contact

About the image: “Where Do You Sit in the Cafeteria?” is part of the Science Museum of Minnesota exhibition RACE Are We Different? Tracking-and-timing data “showed surprisingly high levels of visitor attention to text and graphic panels, challenging the assumption that ‘nobody reads the labels.’”

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