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Introduction to Museum Education


Introduction to Museum Education Howard Gardner, 1943- Multiple Intelligences Linguistic intelligence: sensitivity to spoken and written language, the ability to ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Introduction to Museum Education

Introduction to Museum Education
Fundamental questions
  • What is museum education?
  • What are its historical beginnings?
  • Who ARE our audiences?
  • How we learn - learning theory as foundation of
    museum education
  • Whats changing?

Early Education Departments
  • Early docents set the foundation in todays art
    museums for education departments
  • Currently docents are primarily women, with
    numbers in the thousands, especially in art

Early History of Docents in American Art Museums
  • The Museum of Fine Arts, with its origins in 1807
    as a gentlemens reading club, the Boston
    Athenaeum, introduced the first docents,
  • Benjamin Ives Gilman (Secretary and Trustee for
    the MFA,1851-1933) and a group of men, the first
    officers of the museum, provided docent services
    in the earliest years

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Museum Education Who are our audiences?
  • Children
  • Adolescents
  • Adults
  • Families
  • Schools
  • Community Groups

  • Concrete learners
  • Learn by doing
  • Captive audiences in schools
  • Experiences revolve around world they know
    highly personal, family, friends, school
  • Difficulties with abstractions such as time

  • Individuation from families independence
  • Concerned with identity who am I in the world?
  • Adults in body, still firmly entrenched in family
  • Interested in the big topics, like sex, death,
    meaning of life
  • Peer interaction extremely important
  • Technology important form of communication

Teen Docent Program at the Danforth Museum of
  • Young, middle, older adult groups each motivated
    by different adult life stages
  • passionate and purposeful learners
  • Personally motivated by experience and living in
    their own historic period
  • Leisure time, more free time to spend
  • Not a captive audience visit the museum of
    their own volition

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  • A family is a multi generational social group of
    up to 5-6 people with or without children that
    comes as a unit to the museum.
  • Families are dynamic and changing. Members grow
    and develop, members are added and subtracted.
  • Families constitute an important visitor group
    for museums, comprising at least 50 of all
    museum visitors.

Families through the lifespan how do we
cultivate them at each age?
  • Young children accompany parents
  • School aged children come with parents and to
    classes with their schools and other groups
  • Teenagers, now comfortable, come with peers
  • Young adults visit during childbearing years
  • Adults at various stages of life
  • Families enfolded into the museum

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What does family learning look like?
  • Playful and highly social experience
  • Influenced by the ages of the children and/or
    adults in the group
  • (Families perceive museums as good for their
  • Members learn in different ways
  • Find value in their own personal observations and
    experiences by working, talking, and solving
    problems together

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Observing families in museums
  • Conversation a key characteristic
  • Families interact in predictable ways, influenced
    by the age of the children, familiarity with the
    setting, and their family learning style.
  • Behaviors include verbal and non-verbal
    interactions looking at exhibitions,
    participating in programs, visiting the gift
    shop, engaging in conversation, gesturing,
    modeling, and emoting.
  • These behaviors are carried out collaboratively
    within the museum, but also extend beyond the

Museums and Schools
  • Museums and schools both provide unique and
    valuable learning environments
  • Both share a vision for education of children
  • Both have vastly different cultures formal and
    informal education
  • Both in need of funding for collaboration
  • On-going communication essential to defining
    roles and responsibilities clearly

School groups visit museums
  • Visiting school groups often represent the
    highest percentage of visitors to a museum very
    important audience
  • Social interaction in a school group is important
    for a positive learning outcome
  • Recognition and accommodation of childrens
    social agendas can result in increased learning
  • Students enjoy seeing and learning about new
    things and perceive museums as places to do so.

  1. Children prefer to share what they are learning
    with peers rather than listening to an adult tour
  2. They learn better when they visit multiple times
  3. when the teacher prepares unit with related
    classroom activities before and after visit
  4. when there are opportunities for choice and
    personalized learning

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Museum/school collaborations
  • Prepare students and teachers for lifelong
    appreciation of the benefits of what a museum can
    offer, enjoyment of museums
  • Enhancement of the curriculum with hands-on
    objects and experiences, exposure to multiple
  • Can increase as sense of ownership of the museum
  • Greater appreciation of cultural diversity

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Problems with Museum /School collaborations
  • Lack of money to fully realize collaboration
  • Lack of understanding of the different cultures
    in schools and museums on both sides
  • Lack of strict relevancy to the subject areas in
    standardized testing
  • Schools lack time to attend museums, because they
    need to teach to the test

Museums reach out to schools
  • Museums often have active outreach programs in
  • Museum professionals visit schools with slides
    and/or hands-on objects, and conduct programs for
    several groups
  • This allows some interaction with the museum but
    is less expensive for the school
  • Technology is allowing innovation in outreach

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Community Outreach
  • Groups from the community commonly visit museums
  • Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, 4-H Clubs, Homeschooling
    families, after-school programs
  • Museums offer studio and other kinds of
    educational classes for adults, teens, and
    children after school, nights and weekends

Learning theory informs museum education
  • The following learning theories are particularly
    important in museum education, an informal
    learning setting (different from the formal,
    school/classroom experience

  • is a theory describing how learning happens,
    regardless of whether learners are using their
    prior experiences to understand a lecture or
    following the instructions for building a model
  • Learners construct knowledge out of their prior
    experiences through assimilation and accommodation

Jean Piaget (1896 1980) was one of the first
theorists to define stages of development in
  • Preoperational stage from ages 2 to 7 (magical
    thinking predominates. Acquisition of motor
    skills). Egocentrism begins strongly and then
    weakens. Children cannot use logical thinking.
  • Concrete operational stage from ages 7 to 12
    (children begin to think logically but are very
    concrete in their thinking). Children can now
    think logically but only with practical aids.
    They are no longer as egocentric.
  • Formal operational stage from age 12 onwards
    (development of abstract reasoning). Children
    develop abstract thought and can easily conserve
    and think logically in their mind.

Lev Vygotsky, 1896-1934
  • Individual cognition develops as a result of
    interactions in the social life of the
  • Cannot isolate individual processes from social
    processes must understand an individuals social
    relationships to understand the learning process.
    People spend the majority of their time in
    social interaction.
  •  All learning is built upon previous learning,
    not just of the individual, but of the entire
    society in which that individual lives.
  • People use language not only for social
    communication but to guide, plan, and monitor
    their activity in a self-regulatory way.
  • Language mediates social interaction and
    cognitive activity between individuals as well as
    within individuals.

John Dewey (1859-1952)
  • Dewey was known as the father of experiential
  • Learning should be active schooling
    unnecessarily long and restrictive.  Students
    should be involved in real-life tasks and
    challenges - Math could be learned by learning
    proportions in cooking or figuring out how long
    it would take to get from one place to another
    (a popular math curriculum today is called Every
    Day Math)
  • Dewey's philosophy helped forward a "progressive
    education" movement, and spawned the development
    of "experiential education" programs
  • Dewey's philosophy lies at the heart of bold
    educational experiments, including modern museum

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Howard Gardner, 1943- Multiple Intelligences
  • Linguistic intelligence sensitivity to spoken
    and written language, the ability to learn
    languages, and the capacity to use language to
    accomplish certain goals. Includes the ability to
    effectively use language to express oneself and
    language as a means to remember information.
  • Logical-mathematical intelligence analyze
    problems logically, carry out mathematical
    operations, and investigate issues
    scientifically can detect patterns, reason
    deductively and think logically. Associated with
    scientific and mathematical thinking.
  • Musical intelligence skill in the performance,
    composition, and appreciation of musical
    patterns. Can recognize and compose musical
    pitches, tones, and rhythms. Musical
    intelligence runs in an almost structural
    parallel to linguistic intelligence.
  • Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence using whole
    body or parts of the body to solve problems.
    Ability to use mental abilities to coordinate
    bodily movements.
  • Spatial intelligence recognize and use the
    patterns of wide space and more confined areas.
  • Interpersonal intelligence capacity to
    understand intentions, motivations and desires of
    other people. Allows people to work effectively
    with others. Educators, salespeople, religious
    and political leaders and counselors all need a
    well-developed interpersonal intelligence.
  • Intrapersonal intelligence capacity to
    understand oneself, to appreciate one's feelings,
    fears and motivations. Involves an effective
    working model of ourselves, and to be able to use
    such information to regulate our lives.

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Whats new?
  • Museums are becoming more audience-focused and
  • Our understandings of how people learn in a
    museum setting are beginning to be better
    researched, articulated, and applied
  • Availability and types of technology growing
    rapidly in the 21st Century