Science on the Move: A Design-Based Research Study of Informal STEM Learning in Public Spaces - Pre-Proofing Manuscript
This article describes a design-based research (DBR) study conducted as part of a larger initiative, Science on the Move, intended to bring non-facilitated and unexpected science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning experiences to public transit stations. Drawing from prior research on situational interest, pedestrian navigation, and design affordances, the study was intended to (a) support the development of exhibit prototypes in transit stations and (b) build a theoretically-grounded conjecture map of multi-stage visitor attention, including factors which support or discourage engagement in these settings. The team iteratively tested and refined two exhibit prototypes, collecting data through tracking and timing, naturalistic observation, and structured interviews. The final conjecture map posits three stages of attention and situational interest, an underlying appraisal process guiding movement across these stages, and specific environment-person factors relevant at each stage. Findings also suggest several critical differences in designing for attention and interest in transit centers, given the importance of mental schemas and social norms in navigation and choice. These results, while specific to the local context of the study, provide researchers and practitioners with theoretical frameworks to build upon with regard to audience attention and engagement and the design of informal learning experiences in public spaces.