Monday, 14 July 2014

'How People Learn' training day at the Museum of the History of Science - Jenny Hulmes

This was our first training day which focused on the ways in which people learn. We began the session at the Museum of the History of Science by recalling and discussing our own experiences of how we learned to do something. Fellow trainee Rachel described her time at camp and how reciting songs and rhymes around the camp fire helped her learn in a way that was fun and multisensory. Whilst Hannah relayed how she used a visual style of learning by which she associated information with objects and colours, in order to help her recall it at a later time.

Array of hats representing different learning theories

With the help of customised hats made by Chris to illustrate different learning theories, it was apparent that learning can be a very personal experience to each individual so it's ineffectual to impose one learning style on everybody. Instead its important to take elements from each theory to help inform practise, whether it be constructivist, cognitive or behaviourist. We saw that many museums like to go down the constructivist route which allows for greater audience participation with the aid of interactives, the Antenna Live gallery at London's Science Museum being a prime example. We discussed the benefits of museums like these, but also agreed that some audiences might crave a more structured orderly learning environment with a clear route; again, it depends on the individual.

As facilitators for learning we strive to create a learning environment that is inspiring, creative and most importantly, enjoyable. For me, the most significant thing I took away from this training day, and demonstrated by Chris with a coffee and doughnut hat, is that it is essential for the learner to feel comfortable and at ease in the environment they're in.  As museum educators, it is imperative that we make a conscious effort to do this, especially as some museums and collections may appear quite overwhelming and even daunting at first.

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