The Professionalization of Museum Educators: The Case in Science Museums

Museum Management and Curatorship 06/2007; 22(2):131-149. DOI: 10.1080/09647770701470328


Museum educators have a longstanding presence and importance in museums, but there is limited recognition and understanding of their work, both in research and practice. Investigations into the pedagogical actions of educators in science museums suggest that educators do not share a common understanding of best practice, which may be due to the absence of professional preparation grounded in a recognized knowledge base. To ensure quality and credibility of museum education work, and for the occupation to complete its professionaliza- tion process, a knowledge base is needed. Thus, we offer a framework upon which the professional work of museum educators may be grounded. This knowledge framework comprises six components: context, choice and motivation, objects, content, theories of learning, and talk, which are organized into three domains of knowledge: museum content knowledge, museum pedagogical knowledge, and museum contextual knowledge.

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Available from: Lynn Uyen Tran, Apr 07, 2015
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    • "More needs to be done to ensure that ISI educators are not only keeping up with education reforms (AAAS, 1993, 1994; NRC, 1996) but also contributing towards visitors' learning of science. Tran and King (2007) state that Shulman's (1986) domains of knowledge (e.g. content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, and curricular knowledge) should be adapted for ISI educators and their underlying professional practice. "
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    ABSTRACT: Publications such as Surrounded by science: Learning science in informal environments [Fenichel, M., & Schweingruber, H. A. (2010). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press] and Learning science in informal environments: People, places, and pursuits [National Research Council. (200932. National Research Council (2009). Learning science in informal environments: People, places, and pursuits, Washington, DC: National Academy Press.View all references). Washington, DC: National Academy Press] have documented a recent trend advocating a greater awareness and value of Nature of Science (NOS), also known as Nature of Scientific Knowledge [see Lederman, N. G. (2007). Nature of science: Past, present, and future. In S. K. Abell & N. G. Lederman (Eds.), Handbook of research on science education (pp. 831–879). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum], for informal science learning experiences. However, little in the literature addresses what informal science educators know about science and, in particular, the views they have about NOS. In this study, informal science educators were asked to fill out an online version of the Views of Nature of Scientific Knowledge—Form C questionnaire [Abd-El-Khalick, F., & Lederman, N. G. (2000). The influence of history of science courses on students’ views of nature of science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37(10), 1057–1095; Lederman, N. G., Schwartz, R. S., Abd-El-Khalick, F., & Bell, R. L. (2001). Preservice teachers’ understanding and teaching of nature of science: An intervention study. The Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education, 1(2), 135–160]. Along with interview responses, 20 of the fully completed questionnaires were purposefully selected to provide the data for this study. Participants were included if they were actively teaching full time to the public in informal science settings. This criterion for inclusion was utilized in order to address the lack of research about this category of individuals. The surveys underwent qualitative analysis and were coded using a scoring rubric. Overall, participants' demonstrated a strong understanding about NOS but views about the certainty of science were prevalent.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2013
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    • "and adults. Surprisingly, despite having a longstanding presence in, and value to, museums (Hein 2006; Orosz 1990), research on educators' work, roles, and contributions is limited (Tran 2007). Moreover, at a national meeting in the USA intended to explore the meaning of educational success in museum work, 1 educators voiced frustration at the poor definition and recognition of their role and expertise (Scott 2006). "
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    ABSTRACT: This paper reports the findings from an interview study with 24 educators from 10 museums in England. The investigation looked at how educators characterise their work and how their work is organised. The analytical framework of this investigation draws on sociological discussions on professionalism. The findings show that there is shared conception of what museum educators do and that a technical language to talk about their work is emerging. However, further development may be effected by the diversity in educators’ educational backgrounds. Furthermore, the way work is divided in some (large) institutions directly challenges the integrity and expert knowledge of the practitioners, which may ultimately impede the occupation from truly becoming a profession. The findings have implications for researchers and practitioners interested in science teaching in museum environments, and to the professionalisation of museum education.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2008
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