2008 Teaching and Learning Symposium

2:30-4:30 p.m., May 6, 2008
HUB Ballroom

Session Description



Students as Teachers: Undergraduates as Informal Educators in a Museum Setting

Larkin Hood, Diane Quinn, Julie Stein - Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture

The Burke 101 Program at the Burke Museum was developed to give undergraduate students at the UW an opportunity to share their knowledge in a particular discipline and gain experience as informal educators in a museum setting. The program is organized around a course in which students work together to create hands-on, interactive activities for museum visitors using museum specimens. Students introduce these activities to museum visitors, assess the success of each activity, and make changes to the activities according to the nature of visitor response.

Observations of student interactions with visitors as well as student oral and written reflections on gallery activities indicate some of the characteristics of informal learning environments (ILES) which make them so appealing to museum visitors are often initially challenging to students who may be used to teaching and learning in more traditional classroom settings.

By the end of the course, many students report increased confidence in assuming a role of facilitator, rather than feeling inadequate because they are not content experts. Students also become more aware of the needs of informal learners to construct personal meaning, exercise control over their own learning, and adjust task challenges. Some anecdotal evidence suggests that the experiences that students have in the museum galleries make them more aware of their own learning in informal and classroom settings.




Index of Symposium Presenters