Exploring Alternative Pedagogical Terrain: Teaching and Learning in Art Museums

By Matthewson-Mitchell, Donna | International Journal of Pedagogies and Learning, December 2008 | Go to article overview

Exploring Alternative Pedagogical Terrain: Teaching and Learning in Art Museums


Matthewson-Mitchell, Donna, International Journal of Pedagogies and Learning


Abstract

For school-based education, museums provide important learning opportunities that potentially bridge the gap between the classroom and the world beyond, enabling education to fulfil its aim of preparing students for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life. However, little research has specifically addressed the pedagogical demands and challenges of school-based teaching and learning in the specific context of art museums. This paper reports on a doctoral study that engaged the previously largely unrepresented voices of school-based educators and student audiences, in an investigation of interactions between schools and museums, with a specific focus on art educators and art museums. A pedagogical model is proposed that addresses the structural characteristics of art museum contexts while also exploring how approaches to teaching and learning can engage individual subjectivities, to make the invisible determinants of action visible, and to activate the possibilities of agency. The organising structure of the model extends the pedagogical repertoire of school-based educators, equipping them with approaches that allow for the development of purposeful and integrated educational experiences. In the provision of theoretical positions and strategies for inter-and intra-field interactions, the model ultimately identifies art museums as distinctive sites for transformative and inclusive school-based pedagogies that potentially provide a foundation for future cultural practice.

Key words: art education, art museums, transformative and inclusive school-based pedagogies, inter-and intra-field interactions

Introduction: Museums as problematic pedagogical sites

Pedagogy is a term that references the varying and divergent elements that underpin teaching practice (Hayes, Mills, Christie and Lingard, 2006). Recent interest in pedagogy has led to the development of models such as Authentic Pedagogy (Newmann et al, 1996), Productive Pedagogies (Education Queensland, 2001; Hayes et al, 2006) and the Quality Teaching Framework (NSW DET, 2003), which have effectively attempted to identify general classroom teaching practices that will improve and enhance student learning. However, little focus has been placed on how conceptualizations of pedagogy, in relation to school-based learning, can be applied outside of the classroom environment.

This is significant given that school-based excursions are an accepted and valued part of most school curriculums. In the relative absence of research that addresses alternative pedagogical sites, this paper will present a model for teaching and learning in art museum settings. The aim of the model is to provide a schema within which intentional pedagogical action that integrates art museum experiences with classroom-based learning, can be facilitated.

As venues for school excursions, museums have traditionally been used as pedagogical sites. This is supported by widespread agreement that relationships between museums and schools are educationally valuable (Anderson, 1997; Bennett, 1994; Fredette, 1982; Gardner 1990; Hooper-Greenhill, 1991; Marsh, 2004; Millar, 1989; Mitchell, 1996; Moffat, 1989; Newsom and Silver, 1978; Stone, 1993; Vallance, 2007; Zeller, 1987). As cultural and educational institutions, museums offer distinctive learning environments and learning opportunities that differ from those available in schools. Focused on objects, their interpretation and their preservation, museums offer open, visually-oriented physical spaces that vary in structure, formality, comfort and welcome (Vallance, 2007) and are moved through by participants (Harrison and Naef, 1985). The characteristic qualities of museum learning have been observed as being: focused on subject matter connected to collections (Vallance, 2007); self paced and self directed (Heumann Gurian, 1991; Hughes, Jackson and Kidd, 2007), based on participative, exploratory, activity based encounters (Xanthoudaki, 1998; Beer, 1992); and characterized by social interaction (Griffin, 1998, 1999b; McManus, 1987, 1988; Silverman, 1995; Xanthoudaki, 1998; Zeller, 1985). …

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