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Enhancing pupil learning on museum visits
Enhancing pupil learning on museum visits

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3 Learning styles and museums

It is generally accepted that children and adults learn most effectively in a variety of ways, that we have as human beings a range of differentiated learning styles.

If we had access to resources like this, we could make learning real … Having the freedom to walk a bit more, have a bit more space, spread out into this environment is so conducive to learning. It's very special.

Inspiring Learning for All (2004)

Museums are perfectly placed to cater for different learning styles, in practical and meaningful ways. Museums offer opportunities for play, experimentation, and on a basic level, for walking around, sitting on the floor and standing up. Children are more free to move – no small thing for a child who finds sitting at the same desk in the same position every day an effort which distracts from learning.

There are very often opportunities to listen, to explore through a range of media and to move freely between different types of learning experiences in today's museums. The range of styles of interpretation offered by the sector gives teachers and e-learners a range of ways of accessing collections and subjects.

For instance, a child who learns best in an interpersonal way relates to the world through an understanding of other people and a sensitivity to their feelings and motivations. This type of learner would respond well to an exhibition or display that relates ideas and factual knowledge to an identifiable person, a person they can respond to on a personal level.

An example of this would be the National Portrait Gallery's 2003 exhibition of the photographs of Julia Margaret Cameron, a nineteenth-century photographer. The show covered a range of issues pertinent to the Victorian era – family life, travel, photography as a developing art form, portraiture, literary figures and religion – all seen through the filter of Cameron's work and life.

Activity 3

In May 2004 a website called Inspiring Learning for All was launched by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. It stemmed from a widespread and ongoing consultancy and research project and aims to support museums in their production of educational materials. A direct link to the website is available here.

On the site is a quiz based on Gardner's theories of multiple intelligences, which relates each one to the relevant types of museum displays, workshops and exhibitions. It is available as a Learning styles activity. It gives details of each of the seven types of intelligence and provides examples of ways in which they all relate to museums and galleries.

It's particularly interesting to try this activity as a group exercise with colleagues, identifying the range of different learning styles present in your staffroom and seeing how museums could cater for them.

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