Along with schools, museums are one of society's most visible institutions of learning. Changing perceptions of museums and their role in society, combined with contemporary ideas about cognition and human development, make today's museums a fascinating context in which to investigate and encourage active, self-directed learning. This course examines the theory and practice of active learning through the lens of the museum. Though it mainly uses museums as its context, the core ideas of the course apply to settings of learning more widely. Through readings, discussions, and immersive museum experiences, students will explore questions such as: What is active learning, and how does it compare to other forms of learning? What is its basis in learning theory, and how is it related to theories of knowledge and theories of teaching? What counts as evidence of active learning, and how can it be recognized, documented, and evaluated? A special focus of the course will be the link between active learning and slow looking. Slow looking means going beyond a quick glance and first impression. The course will explore the obvious and not-so-obvious connections between active learning and close observation, and examine a range of slow looking strategies for exploring objects and exhibitions in museums, as well as objects and systems in everyday life. As part of the course requirement, students will work in small groups to design, implement, and critique an active learning/slow looking experience in a museum or museum-like environment. Several visits to local museums are required.
Permission of instructor required. Enrollment is limited to 20, and selection is decided by lottery. Prerequisite: Must be able to travel to local museums (museums are accessible by public transportation). A museum background is not required.
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