Graphic Organizer

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The museum is a special location with unique qualities that provides experiences that a school cannot. While children and teenagers comprise the largest groups of visitors, museums often have problems with winning over their juvenile audience as stable visitors and “users.” In particular, teenagers who are slow learners are little noticed or addressed by museums’ activities and offerings. Therefore, museums as a place of learning are insufficiently matched to the cognitive demands of this group of students. The present study investigated the effectiveness of cognitive organizers as a method of fostering learning in a museum with a group of learning-disabled students and compared the performance of an experimental group with those of a control and a reference group. The research design was a pre/posttest design with three parallelized groups (experimental, control, and reference) from different special schools. The participants visited different exhibition areas of a major German natural history and research museum. The group of fifty-one students aged 13 to 17 years was parallelized with different tests that captured prior knowledge, reading comprehension, and general intelligence. A pretest and a posttest were applied over three visits to the museum. The results show significant effects. Increases in performance were considerably larger in the experimental group than in the control and reference groups. However, the preservation of the intervention’s level of effect could not be confirmed in a follow-up test. These results and their implications are discussed in the context of helping youth with learning disabilities to acquire factual knowledge in a museum context.