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Learning in museums

Learning in museums. Theory, research & practice. What do we mean by learning in museums?. Think about a learning experience you’ve had in a museum. Many different theories. How people learn Different learning styles & preferences What people learn. Museum learning. It ain’t school.

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Learning in museums

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  1. Learning in museums Theory, research & practice

  2. What do we mean by learning in museums? Think about a learning experience you’ve had in a museum

  3. Many different theories • How people learn • Different learning styles & preferences • What people learn

  4. Museum learning It ain’t school

  5. Museums as learning resources • What are the differences between learning in museums and learning in schools? • What are the strengths and weaknesses of each?

  6. Strengths Motivation No assessment Variety of experience Concrete vs. abstract Social experience Weaknesses Huge variety of prior knowledge, skills, motivations Largely unmediated by educators Time – very brief compared to school Learning in museums

  7. Falk & Dierking’s contextual model of museum learning

  8. Learning in museums is all about “the real thing” Real objects Real phenomena Real people

  9. The real thing • Leinhardt & Crowley – the power of objects • Value: uniqueness / cost • Density of information • Scale • Authenticity

  10. The power of museums • Michael Spock’s “Pivotal Learning Experiences” • Vivid, relevant, lasting, life-changing memories • Match of experience to personal interest • Learner has control over content & pace • Some independence from adults • Variety of activity & content

  11. Theories of how people learn The personal context

  12. Influential thinkers Piaget, Vygotsky, Bruner & Dewey

  13. Piaget Four factors underlying intellectual development • Maturation (physical and neurological development) • Physical (direct apprehension of the physical world) & logico-mathematical (intellectual reflection & reconstruction) experiences • Social transmission (schooling, learning from others) • Equilibration (integration of these influences to achieve an adaptive balance with the environment)

  14. Piaget • Learner is actively involved in the process of learning • Assimilation of new concepts into existing mental models • Accommodation of mental models to fit new concepts

  15. Vygotsky • All higher mental functions start in social plane • Learning use of cultural tools through social interaction • Language • Numbers • Thinking skills • Planning skills • Internalisation of conversation • The Zone of Proximal Development

  16. Zone of proximal development level of potential development (what the child can do with help) zone of proximal development (what the child can do with help & will soon be able to do unaided) level of actual development (what the child can do unaided)

  17. John Dewey • All learning is based in experience • But not all experience is educational • An educational experience is • Immediately agreeable • Provides a challenge • Links to past experiences • Generates questions and desire for more learning

  18. John Dewey • What is learnt is not only the subject of study • Need for structure to … • Turn impulse & desire into purpose • Through reflection & suspension of judgement

  19. Piaget, Vygotsky & Dewey Come together in Constructivism

  20. Constructivism • All new knowledge constructed on basis of current knowledge • Better understanding when leaner is actively involved • Learning involves modifying mental models • Discussion & social interaction is key to learning • Importance of meta-cognition – learning how you learn

  21. “Learning occurs when people reconstruct meaning and understanding; a different way of thinking, perhaps, or a different way of responding to an idea or event. Learning that occurs today depends on yesterday’s learning and is the foundation for tomorrow’s learning.” National association of research in science teaching Ad Hoc Committee 2003

  22. Learning is a process of active engagement with experience. It is what people do when they want to make sense of the world. It may involve increases in skills, knowledge, understanding, feelings and capacity to reflect. It may involve challenging values, attitudes and beliefs. Effective learning leads to change, development and the desire to learn more. (Modified version of the Campaign for Learning’s definition of learning)

  23. “Learning is a whole, not a part; a whole that can only be understood by trying to situate any given learning experience within a larger framework of a person’s total life” John Falk (2004)

  24. Learning is other people Museum learning as a social process

  25. Zone of proximal development level of potential development (what the child can do with help) zone of proximal development (what the child can do with help & will soon be able to do unaided) level of actual development (what the child can do unaided)

  26. Scaffolding learning in the ZPD • Modeling – behaviour or ideas for imitation • Feedback – compares to a standard • Instructing – requesting specific action; selecting the correct response, providing clarity & information • Questioning – request for a verbal response • Cognitive structuring; explanations – organise new learning • Task structuring – chunking, segregating, sequencing, defining goals & sub-goals or otherwise structuring a task • Organising & directing attention

  27. Social interaction & museum learning Studies of family talk – Sue Allen • Types of talk - perceptual, conceptual, connecting, strategic, affective • Learning talk – 97% of talk at exhibits; occurred at 83% of exhibits • High frequency of conceptual talk • Hypothesis, ref. to previous knowledge, generalisations

  28. Social interaction & museum learning Text echo – Paulette McManus • Shared use of label text / even reading labels is a social experience Parental “explanatoids” – Kevin Crowley • Just in time explanations • Focus & direct children’s attention Negotiated meaning-making – Doris Ash • Distributed expertise – adults & children • Parents model reasoning & thinking • Importance of complexity & balance of power • A collective family ZPD

  29. Social interaction & museum learning • Kevin Crowley - Islands of Expertise • Children develop ‘islands of expertise’ • Family activities built around these ‘islands’ to sustain them • ‘Islands’ become platforms for practicing learning habits • Museums are good at developing ‘Islands of expertise’ • Episodic memories

  30. Learning through other people Guided participation - Rogoff • School seen as only one, relatively new approach to learning • “Children learn as they participate in & are guided by the values & practices of their cultural communities” • Learning through observing & mimicking adult activities • Often without explicit educational intention • Learners both participate in & help to shape community practices

  31. Learning through other people Legitimate peripheral participation - Lave & Wenger • E.g. apprenticeships • Drawn from periphery into centre of a “community of practice” • Through observation & increasing participation • Changing identity; gaining membership - new timer to old timer • “Learning is a way of being in the social world, not a way of coming to know about it”

  32. The role of play? • Which of these statements do you agree with? • Play not learning? • Play is learning? • Learning is play?

  33. Corinne Hutt’s model of play

  34. Different people learn in different ways Influence of Gardner & Kolb

  35. Kolb-McCarthy - learning styles SENSE-FEEL dynamic imaginative DO WATCH problem-solver analytical THINK

  36. A dynamic learner likes … • hands-on’ learning • learning by trial & error • self-discovery • talking with other people

  37. An imaginative learner likes ... • seeking personal meaning • looking at things from different points of view • watching, listening & sharing ideas • learning about people & culture

  38. A problem solver likes … • solving problems, resents being given answers • knowing how things work • ‘hands-on’ learning • testing theories

  39. An analytical learner likes … • thinking thru’ ideas • seeking facts • knowing what experts think • listening & thinking

  40. Gardner’s - multiple gateways • Different people prefer different approaches to learning • Narrative: story-bases • Quantitative: numbers, logic • Aesthetic • Foundational; philosophical • Experiential

  41. Theories of what people learn The personal context (again)

  42. What do we mean by learning in museums? More than just remembering facts

  43. A model of learning • Cognitive • Affective • Skill-based • Social • Personal

  44. Museum learning also includes • Reinforcing prior knowledge through … • repetition • direct, concrete experience • setting prior knowledge into context • Applying knowledge in the real world (Newtonian to billiards)

  45. Museum learning also includes Affective learning • challenging beliefs & values • making people more aware of other people’s point of view

  46. Museum learning also includes Practicing or gaining skills • thinking skills - exploration, observation, measurement, classification … • story-telling • artistic appreciation • IT skills • craft skills

  47. Museum learning also includes Social learning • team work • communication • co-operation

  48. Museum learning also includes Personal learning • inspiring interest • increasing self confidence • increased awareness of what you can do

  49. Now what do you think we mean by learning in museums? Think about experience you’ve had in a museum

  50. Is every experience in a museum educational?

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