Date of Graduation

Spring 2016

Document Type

Honors Research Project

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in Education

Major

Adolescent to Young Adult - Integrated Social Studies

Research Sponsor

Dr. Brad Maguth

First Reader

Dr. Brad Maguth

Second Reader

Dr. Gary Holliday

Abstract

Museums are visited more often than ever before, and as a result, are offering far more educational and interactive experiences to draw in a greater audience. As such, it is important to define how learning takes place in the museum setting, and also, how the museum experience can be refined in order to better accommodate visitor learning and their experience. The problem is, however, the museum setting is a nontraditional and unstructured environment, far different than the classroom, and museum staff, usually reserved to maintaining the collection and nothing else, are now being forced to build the museum experience around the visitor. Furthermore, museum and classroom collaboration is an excellent means to enhance classroom learning for students and bring in new audiences to museums, but the relationship between these two institutions leaves much to be desired. As such, this paper will address to issues: (1) how can museums better enhance learning in their venue and (2) how can museums and classrooms be linked to better aid the educational experience. To address these issues, research will be compiled, analyzed, and then applied to a local museum to assess the quality of learning. The research concludes that museum learning is a complex phenomenon that is contingent on three contexts and a multitude of factors. Museums can best accommodate learning by being cognizant of all these contexts (defined by the Contextual Model of Learning by Falk & Dierking 2000) and by creating a museum experience that is accessible, relevant, and open to interpretations from all demographics and cultural groups. Also, there are great barriers that still exist to classroom-museum partnership, but open lines of communication and mutual goals between institutions can both help to streamline field trips and create a memorable and educational experience. These conclusions can be applied to better enhance the educational programming of museums and better serve the visitors and classrooms that attend museums.

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