03 SES 06 B, Curriculum and Purposeful Schooling
This research project was essentially about teaching and learning strategies that support education programs across school and museum contexts. As such, it was essential that there was a strong focus on teachers’ and students’ perspectives.The project also examined the value and role that museums have as unique places for learning. Contemporary museums can bring to life stories about human experience and the environment through distinctive artefacts, interactive experiences and offering different perspectives on subject content.
The major research question for this study is:
What strategies can be used to enhance student learning about key concepts and skills before, during and after visits to the museum?
Research reveals that the extent to which students engage in museum experiences and the impact this has on learning outcomes is highly complex and situated across cognitive, physical, social and affective domains (Kelly, 2011). DeWitt and Hohenstein (2011) cite a number of studies outlining factors that impact on student learning in museum contexts such as ‘the nature and degree of structure of the trip; the use of pre- and post-visit materials; students’ prior knowledge; the novelty of the setting;…and the social context of a museum visit’ (p. 41). The focus in educational research tends to be on cognitive outcomes; however, learning can be more broadly applied to ‘any combination of cognitive, affective, behavioural or social’ outcomes (Bamberger & Tal, 2008, p. 275). The importance of affective engagement for optimising learning and inspiring curiosity is noted as an essential consideration and justification for taking students into museum environments (DeWitt and Hohenstein, 2010; Anderson, Lucas and Ginns, 1999). Students that are engaged in the experience and are interested in the topic are more likely to be motivated to learn. However, it is interesting to note that students can also perceive the excursion experience as a social experience, rather than a learning opportunity and do not seem to distinguish between ‘enjoyment’ and ‘educational value’ (Birney, 1998). Beyond the school years, it is evident that excursion experiences have a memorable and lasting impact. Adults’ memories of primary school excursions were recalled many years after the actual trip (Falk & Dierking, 1997). Bamberger and Tal (2008) found that the social interactions in particular were one of the ‘long-term impacts of visits’ (p. 281).
School and teachers invest significant time in relation to scheduling, transport, permissions, managing bookings, safety and budgeting when organising an excursion to a museum. The reason being that these excursion experiences are often seen as valued educational opportunities that cannot be replicated in classroom context. Likewise, museums invest substantial resources into providing education programs for schools. Anderson et al. (1999) report that prior knowledge is vital for optimising learning when going to an excursion venue and state that not following up a visit by connecting it to classroom practice is a missed opportunity for building conceptual knowledge and addressing any misconceptions. The research literature does report the significance of the classroom and museum experiences as being mutually complementary as essential for supporting student learning (Cox-Peterson, 1998).
The research literature highlights key affordances and challenges associated with planning sequences of learning that link to excursion experiences and back again to the classroom setting. The key focus needs to be on the students, as learners, and maximising the cognitive, social and affective aspects of learning. For teachers and museum educators, the impact of planning learning experiences, effective pedagogies and linking them to both school and museum contexts remains a challenge. However, by working collaboratively to investigate how designing these experiences can impact on learning can provide further insight into more effective ways of working together.
This qualitative case study was a collaborative effort between the Melbourne Museum, the University of Melbourne and a year 5 cohort from a school in metropolitan Melbourne. The three partners worked together to design a unit of work focusing on Economics and History, which included two excursions to the Melbourne Museum. Due to redesigning school-based curriculum, the unit had not been taught before at this year level so it was the ideal opportunity to work collaboratively to create a new unit plan and to support the implementation in both the school and museum contexts. PARTICIPANTS AND METHODS Four teachers working at the year 5 level and one hundred year 5 students participated in this project. Participation in the project attempted to replicate ‘usual’ classroom and excursion experiences as much as possible. Work samples that were produced during the unit of work were photographed or scanned after the lessons. All students were invited to complete a short online survey at the end of the unit. The importance of social interaction and talk in settings for supporting learning is well documented in research literature (Vygotsky, 1978; De Witt & Hohenstein, 2010; Mercer, Hennessy and Warwick, 2017). Therefore, eight students were audio-recorded students while on site at the museum during two excursion experiences in order to understand more about how students interact in this environment and the impact this might have on learning. The teachers completed short questionaries every fortnight during the unit and participated in a semi-structured interview at the end of the unit. ANALYSIS The analysis was conducted using an ‘inductive investigative strategy’ (Merriam, 2016). All interviews were transcribed. A summary of the units of analysis were adapted for this study from Yin (2009) p. 46: Unit 1: Planning excursions within an inquiry-based unit of work Unit 2: Learning in the classroom context Unit 3: Learning in the museum context Unit 4: Students’ and teachers’ perspectives The analytic phase of the project involved the systematic process of compiling data, disassembling the data through coding and reassembling the data to identify emerging patterns (Yin, 2011). Inductive analyses were conducted using Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software to generate coding schemes for planning documents, semi-structured interviews, transcripts of audio-recordings and work samples. As with any research pertaining to human participants, ethical issues, such as providing informed consent and ensuring anonymity of participants, were addressed in the conduct this research project.
In conclusion, the following principles were constructed for integrating classroom and museum experiences: OPTIMAL INTEGRATION OF CLASSROOM AND MUSEUM EXPERIENCES - The purpose for attending the museum is defined and aligned with curricular goals. - The excursion is situated within a sequence of learning that connects the museum experience explicitly with classroom-based instruction. - Key concepts and skills are reinforced through targeted learning experiences in both contexts. - Pre-excursion activities provide foundational knowledge related to content and skills. - Planned opportunities are provided for students to pose, explore and respond to questions before, during and after the excursion experience. - A diverse range of formal and informal experiences are planned that accommodate students’ interests and inspire curiosity. - Museum practices are made visible to students. - Post-excursion activities incorporate the use of information generated during the excursion to draw conclusions and for reflection. - Resources to support planning are accessible to teachers online and are communicated clearly at the booking stage. - Professional learning for teachers is accessible and enhances skills, knowledge and confidence when using the museum as an educational resource. - Pedagogical approaches are used that foster a range of interaction types between students, educators, environment and technology (including simulations and inquiry-based approaches). - Optimise learning through formal and informal learning experiences while at the museum, beyond the programs that the museum educators offer. Anders et al. (2017) state that ‘we know very little about children’s learning processes and results from experiences in different museum types, and how their learning can be best guided’ (p.48). Strategies for aligning knowledge and skills between the school and museum contexts and transferability are essential. The findings show that there is no singular approach to effective practice, but a range of experiences are required to adequately target skills and content knowledge. This also impacts on student engagement and affective outcomes.
Anders, L. Durkson, T., & Volman, M.L. (2017). Museums as avenues of learning for children: A decade of research. Learning Environmental Research, 20, 47-76. Anderson, D., Lucas, K., Ginns, I., & Dierking, L. (1999). Development of knowledge about electricity and magnetism during a visit to a science museum and related post-visit activities. Science Education, 84(5), 658–679. Anderson, D., Piscitelli, B., Weier, K., Everett, M., & Tayler, C. (2002), Children's museum experiences: Identifying powerful mediators of learning. Curator: The Museum Journal, 45, 213-231. Bamberger, Y., & Tal, T. (2008). Multiple outcomes of class visits to natural history museums: The students’ view. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 17(3), 274-284. Birney (1998). Criteria for successful museum and school visits. Curator: The Museum Journal, 31, 292-316. Cox-Peterson, A., & Pfaffinger, J. (1998). Teacher preparation and teacher-student interactions at a discovery center of natural history. Journal of Elementary Science Education, 10(2), 20-35. DeWitt, J., & Hohenstein, J. (2010) Supporting Student Learning: A Comparison of Student Discussion in Museums and Classrooms. Visitor Studies, 13(1), 41-66. Falk, J. H., & Dierking, L. D. (1997). School Field Trips: Assessing Their Long-Term Impact. Curator, (3), 211-218. Kelly, L. (2011). Student learning in museums: What do we know? Report prepared for the Sovereign Hill Museums Association. Mercer, N., Hennessy, S., & Warwick, P. (2017). Dialogue, thinking together and digital technology in the classroom: Some educational implications of a continuing line of inquiry. International Journal of Educational Research. https://doi-org.ezp.lib.unimelb.edu.au/10.1016/j.ijer.2017.08.007 Merriam, S. B., & Tisdell, E. J. (2016). Qualitative research: A guide to design and implementation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. Yin, R. K. (2009). Case study research design and methods. Thousand Oaks: SAGE publications. Yin, R. K. (2011). Qualitative research from start to finish. New York: Guilford Press.
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