Museum, Media, Message

By Eilean Hooper-Greenhill | Go to book overview

20

Evaluation of school work in the Rutland Dinosaur Gallery

Kate Pontin

This chapter follows on from a research project developed for a Master’s degree. As I am a museum education officer, the purpose of the research was to use a variety of evaluation techniques in the assessment of gallery use by schools, in particular in the learning of science. It was felt important to improve the quality of museum visits for the increasing numbers of school groups coming to the museum. This was part of a development plan to improve education services. The gallery chosen for the study was the Rutland Dinosaur at Leicester Museum and Art Gallery, which is popular with schools and has a selection of recently developed resources available for their use. The gallery was opened in 1985 and displays a dinosaur found in an Ironstone quarry in Great Casterton, Rutland, east Leicestershire, England. Displayed with it are a number of large sea reptiles found in north Leicestershire. These reptiles, plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs were found in rocks of an age similar to those containing the dinosaur.

The gallery was designed by curatorial and design staff to appeal to the general public, particularly children. Information is brief and carefully written at an appropriate language level. All the panels are positioned at a low level and include graphics and items to touch. The curator’s overall objectives were to answer the question ‘what is a dinosaur?’ and to display the local fossils, especially the dinosaur.

The Dinosaur Gallery has an average of 200 school visits a year totalling over 15,000 pupils, mostly from primary schools. It was an impossible task for the education officer to be present at all these group visits, so gallery support materials including an information pack and (more recently) handling material were developed. Evaluation was an important part of this resource development. The resources were written to support new National Curriculum topic areas. The government has introduced a detailed curriculum to be followed by all state schools, covering all subjects, each split into different areas of attainment at each key stage or age band. Although this initially narrowed the range of topics studied on museum visits it gave museums a great opportunity to target known areas of study. The advent of the National Curriculum and the inclusion of the use of primary source material has made museum visits more crucial. However, it is important to find out how effective the gallery visit is in

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