Seeing museum learning anew

Year: 2003

Author: Groundwater-Smith, Susan, Kelly, Lynda

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper will report upon a joint project undertaken with the Australian Museum and the Coalition of Knowledge Building Schools, a network of seven schools of varying size and from varying socio-economic locations, that is hosted by the Centre for Practitioner Research in the Faculty of Education and Social Work, at the University of Sydney. The project has been designed to examine ways in which the museum's presentation of its collection and special exhibitions may assist or inhibit learning. The project has been undertaken in two phases. In the first instance education staff and interpretive officers of the museum have collected photographic images which they see to relate to learning in the museum. These have been constructed as conceptual posters. Posters have been discussed in small groups, using a strategy that ensures that each participant's voice is documented. In the second phase school students, their teachers and their parents have engaged in school based learning workshops and have then, as a result of visits to the museum, followed the same procedures as those undertaken by museum staff. The posters from both groups have been compared and contrasted and formed the basis for a discussion regarding ways in which the museum might better support learning. The project is of interest both in terms of its substance and its methodology. While image based research is now being increasingly recognised in the qualitative research community as a legitimate means of documenting social phenomena, there is still some hesitancy in adopting it. In this case the research tool which is principally in the hands of practitioner researchers, in the schools and the museum, is seen as a means of contributing to professional learning in both settings. It also contributes, more broadly to a wider understanding of how learning is apprehended when it takes place in contexts other than classrooms.