Situational Interest and Learning in a Science Center Mathematics Exhibition
Keywords:science center, learning outcomes, situational interest, individual interest
Educators have been increasingly interested in teaching mathematics in informal settings. However, there is little research on the actual learning outcomes of out-of-school mathematics instruction or the role of interest in explaining the outcomes. In this study, 793 12-year-old pupils were taken into a science center mathematics exhibition in Latvia and Sweden, measuring their prior knowledge of the contents of the exhibition, general cognitive competences and individual interest in school mathematics before the visit, and their situational interest and learning outcomes after the exhibition. In the exhibition, the pupils learned how to form concrete, hands-on geometrical models and physical structures based on abstract instructions. The results showed that both boys and girls learned during the exhibition, but contrary to the expectations, there were no gender differences in either learning outcomes or interest. Individual interest predicted situational interest, which was a positive predictor of learning outcomes. It was concluded that more attention should be paid to how situational interest and motivation, which are typical in out-of-school learning contexts, can be utilized in enhancing learning outcomes of children of all age groups.