Curricula of Museum Education: International Instances
- Patrick RobertsPatrick RobertsNorthern Illinois University
The application of curriculum theory and models of curriculum development to museum education helps inform the analysis of the representational, communicative, epistemological, and cognitive dimensions of the formal, informal, and nonformal learning that takes place in the museum setting. Museums and other in/nonformal learning environments implicitly and explicitly engage questions of worth inherent to curriculum inquiry. Within the Curriculum Studies field, such questions reflect both an historical and a contemporary concern with issues of diversity, accessibility, social justice, civic value, and human rights in school and non-school curriculum contexts. In addition to other curriculum analysis frameworks, international instances of museum education curricula can be understood through the lenses of three “human interests”: the technical, the practical, and the emancipatory.
A preference for designing educational materials and experiences around predetermined objectives reflects a technical interest in museum curricula. Within this technical approach, which can also be conceptualized as curriculum as product, the success or failure of a curriculum depends on the degree to which the intended objectives are achieved. Curriculum as practice reflects a practical interest in the way understanding and knowledge are created (rather than simply transmitted) through the dynamic social interactions between teacher and learner. A curriculum as practice orientation aligns with constructivist views on museum learning. Representing an emancipatory interest in human liberation and the overcoming of oppressive social structures is the curriculum as praxis orientation. This approach to museum curricula often assumes a social justice goal of community empowerment that seeks to translate understanding or consciousness-raising into action.