We need to observe a gallery teaching and write up an essay. Please give me some feedbacks, thanks a lot.
I observed the preschool class field trip which I do my internship in the Texas memorial museum (TMM). TMM locates in UT and display exhibits relate to Texas natural history. The total tour guide lasted for approximately an hour. I checked the tour guide information on TMM website and I found that the tour guide is basically according to grade level. Also, school tours are based on multiple themes from the Science TEKS (Texas essential knowledge and skills). There are two parts in this tour guide-exhibition hall introduction and "talk to scientist". Two different docents, Karen and Kevin , took the responsibility for leading the tour respectively. Their teaching and interactions with the children will be discussed in details in following paragraphs.
As we discussed in the class, each of us has our own big goal-no matter where the tour guide/gallery teaching takes place. These two docents were no exceptional. Based on the observation, both Karen and Kevin's primary goal was similar; they wanted to introduce the content of exhibits in the way that young children can understand without difficulties. Meanwhile, they tried their best to connect their introduction/teaching with the themes from the Science TEKS. I deem that they wanted these children loving the TMM as well.
Since the tour guide is basically according to grade level, as well as the docents' goals behind the tour, both Karen and Kevin spoke mostly to the children in a simple way. They hardly used terminology in their guiding except those they could not avoid. Especially for Karen, she used examples such as "tooth fairy" or the movie "Finding Nemo" to explain dinosaur's habits and how dinosaurs hunt for foods. Such instances make the unfamiliar content more intimate for the children. In addition, Karen did not rush to correct children's answers or label the answer as right or wrong; instead, she listened to children's assumptions and guided them to observe closely from where they started.
In terms of Kevin's teaching, unlike with Karen, he asked more questions but used fewer analogies in his interaction with the children. The questions were really good in stimulating children's thinking. For example, Kevin did not disclose what the fossil is it when inviting the children and parents to touch it. He asked children to guess which part of an animal might the fossil be and why by touching it. He also asked children to predict "what might this animal eat" based on the rough feel of the fossil. These questions helped to elaborate the children's experiences and thoughts.
While Karen and Kevin might not do very well all the time, they still demonstrated how to well interact with young visitors. Particularly, I think they showed that the depth of a tour guide did not necessarily depend on using tons of terminology; on the contrary, visitors' knowledge could be deepened through a docent's questions. How does a docent talk to visitors is really an art in museum teaching. Based on this observation, I found that in what way a docent should talk to visitors; particularly to children at very young age, is a tough mission for most museum docents because they might not have related backgrounds or enough experiences of working with young children. Since the main audience of museums are composed of two major groups-family and school (Falk & Dierking, 1992), it is necessary for docents/ museum teacher/educator to communicate and negotiate with schoolteachers to know how their needs are, in order to give them the best guiding as well as achieve their own goals through all kinds of narratives.
The children participated by listening for most of the time in the first part. Sometimes they asked questions and re-asked questions if they did not get the point of what Karen said. Yet in general, these young children participated passively in this whole process. Karen's teaching seemed not to allow these young visitors have many chances to explore their personal interests. In other words, the individual voice or willingness disappeared.
On the contrary, when the tour moved on to the "talk to scientist" part; which was in charge by Kevin, the children engaged more actively comparing to their previous responses. The "talk to scientist" took place in the paleontology lab, according to the TMM website, is "a unique working laboratory where visitors are encouraged to interact with and ask questions of a paleontologist or lab intern while seeing first-hand how fossils are properly prepared, catalogued, and studied." Such uniqueness enabled these young children to involve in the interaction and conversation with Kevin by touching a real mammoth tooth fossil and observing how Kevin distinguished fossil pieces from sand or other impurities.
Children before age six learned the most through first-hand authentic experiences. These children were all excited about touching the mammoth tooth fossil and seeing Kevin doing his work. They were highly responsive to Kevin's teaching. They kept asking questions with curiosity and tried to assist Kevin to find fossil pieces. The two experiences offered these children a chance to know how paleontology scientists do their work. The motto: "I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand," which from the Boston Children's Museum perfectly describes why the "talk to scientist" part was most effective moment. I would not claim that there was no learning happened when they listened to Karen's teaching; nonetheless, having chances to touch the fossil and watching scientist's working process empowered these young children to ask more meaningful questions-those they raised from the direct experiences. They also had a more concrete picture of what a paleontology scientist's work is. All in all, first-hand experiences play a critical role in enhancing the effectiveness of the tour, whereas listening but without directly interacting with exhibits may limit its effectiveness.
In sum, while they might have the similar goals, the different teaching philosophies and styles of Karen and Kevin showed apparently in their teaching. Although Karen used some intimate examples to connect children's former experiences or knowledge to the exhibits; she seemed to expect more that children listened carefully to her introduction. In other words, Karen indeed wanted these young visitors to engage in their museum visiting, yet she may think the most effective way was to follow her procedures. As such, I would describe her style belongs to the "transmission" type (Pratt, Collins, & Selinger, 2001), which is more teacher-centered and cares if the course objectives can be achieved. However, Kevin's teaching philosophy may want children learning happily. So his style might belong to part of the "development" and some of the "nurturing" type (Pratt, Collins, & Selinger, 2001). I think this may due to the characteristics of his part, which may offer him more freedom to interact with young visitors.
Lastly, In terms of the relationship that Karen and Kevin cultivate with this preschool class, I would say that they tried to set up a cooperative relationship with these young children, even with the teachers and parents. Such relationship may base on their goals of the tour-to engage children in the exhibit contents in an easy and interesting way. This cooperative relationship does not only help they achieve their goals but also make the tour goes more smoothly.
Falk, J., & Deirking, L. D. (1992). The museum experience. Washington, DC: Whalesback Books.
Pratt, D.D., Collins, J.B., & Selinger, S.J. (2001). Development and use of the Teaching Perspectives Inventory (TPI). Paper presented at the 2001 American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, Seattle, WA. Retrieved Jan 24, 2011, from teachingperspectives.com/PDF/development1.pdf