The exhibition is the physical interface for learning in science centres, as it is where interactions take place, both material interactions with objects, interactives and digital technologies; and social interactions with other individuals. Several studies have concluded that interactive exhibits tend to attract more visitors and engage them for longer times than static exhibits. At the same time studies have also documented that exhibit designs that incorporate too many interactive features can lead to misunderstandings and to visitors feeling overwhelmed. Several studies show how exhibitions often fail to support students in reflective thinking, to facilitate understanding of explanations and theories and even result in retention of misconceptions about scientific phenomena. More specifically, studies of interactive exhibits show that in some cases they actually seemed to teach misconceptions, and in other cases that visitors constructed knowledge which was not in accordance with canonical science. Studying interactions in museum exhibitions and in relation to particular exhibits is important, in order to advance exhibition design and design of interactives. In particular, in order to improve exhibition design in science centres there is a need to develop a didactic and systematic framework for analyzing and designing learning interactions with interactive installations in exhibition spaces.
Expand explores the gap between exhibition design and learning design in Norwegian science centre exhibitions, and focuses on how object- based learning and its sociocultural context, may be conceptualized as part of the media ecology of interactives in exhibitions. In this way visitors’ science learning and their interactions is understood to be related to didactic perspectives and understandings of learning that are inscribed into the material, technical, social and spatial designs that frames visitors interactions and meaning making. By involving science centre educators in exploring how installations do or do not fulfill the forms of learning aimed at by the centers, Expand introduces methods for visitor observations and evaluating of interactions in exhibitions that go beyond established methods of front end and formative exhibition evaluations. This participatory and collaborative research has a special focus on the relation between educational goals, design features and potentials of future design processes related to specific installations.