Continuing the investigation of children's comprehension of and learning from science programs, a further experiment was run with three different programs, intended for either a child audience or a family audience. The first study had shown that children can learn from science programs covering a single topic or theme. Comprehension of program content and knowledge uptake from these programs, however, do not occur universally or at the same level for all viewers. Some children understand and learn more than others. Furthermore, there seem to be certain key variables that are powerfully connected with learning from such programs.
Children who already have a well-developed and relevant background knowledge are better equipped to learn from science programs. This factor is most important of all. Next to that, age is a significant factor, with older children generally performing better than younger children. The importance of background knowledge in learning from factual television programs has been reliably demonstrated among adult viewers in previous research on information retention from broadcast news ( Findahl & Hoijer, 1985; Larsen, 1981). Further, it has been shown that detailed information processing from televised texts comprised of factual content is more effectively carried out when audience members already have a degree of familiarity with the material being presented (see Gunter, 1987a).
A second experiment on learning from science programs was thus run to examine in more detail the factors related to effective information uptake by children. We were interested in whether level of background knowledge was a consistent predictor of learning performance and program comprehension. In addition to audience factors, however, we wished to discover