Journal of Museum Education

Journal of Museum Education


Journal of Museum Education

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Gallery Educators as Adult Learners: The Active

Application of Adult Learning Theory

Kimberly H. McCray

To cite this article: Kimberly H. McCray (2016) Gallery Educators as Adult Learners: The

Active Application of Adult Learning Theory, Journal of Museum Education, 41:1, 10-21, DOI:


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Published online: 08 Feb 2016.

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VOL. 41, NO. 1, 10


Gallery Educators as Adult Learners: The Active Application of Adult Learning Theory

Kimberly H. McCray


In order to better understand the importance of adult learning Adult learning; adult learning theory to museum educators’ work, and that of their profession at theory; andragogy; docents; large, museum professionals must address the need for more front-line museum educators; adult learning research and practice in museums—particularly gallery teachers; gallery

teaching; museum education; work informed by existing theory and work seeking to generate

self-directed learning; docent

new theory. Adult learning theory begins with andragogy, but it training; professional does not end there. Guided by these ideas, and drawing from the development; transformative author’s work, this article highlights three adult learning theories learning and explores adult learning theory as a resource museum educators can use when designing and delivering training and professional development for front-line museum educators.

Museums, as places where adults learn,1 are prime locations for the active application of andragogy—“the art and science of teaching adults.”2 If I added a new word to your vocabulary, you are not alone. The first time I mentioned the term andragogy to a group of Shelburne Museum’s visitor guides,3 one guide joked about androgen and estrogen. The joke lightened the mood and illustrated what scholars Dana Dudzinska-Przesmitzki and Robin Grenier described as “a strange absence of adult education and learning theory in museum studies.”4 Museum professionals must address the lack of “theory informed” and “theory generating” adult learning research and practice in museums. 5

In 1981, the American Association of Museums published Museums, Adults, and the Humanities: A Guide for Educational Programming.6 This 35-year-old book advocates for the role museums play in lifelong learning and the words of its project director Adrienne Horn, as they appear in the preface, still ring true:

Adult educators have stated time and again that museums are an obvious resource for the adult learner because they are an unstructured educational setting, attractive and appropriate for a wide variety of audiences. Only recently, however, has the museum community recognized the importance of offering programs that are tailored specifically to the needs of adults … . as American society continues to mature, museum professionals must become more concerned with adults and must emphasize adult learning activities.7

Today, museum educators continue to hunger for resources “tailored specifically” to understanding “the needs of adults,”8 such as how to best train teaching staff (volunteer and paid) to engage adult visitors in meaningful ways. What can museum professionals do to move adult learning forward?

© 2016 Museum Education Roundtable

Museum professionals can dine on the delectable, rich resources found in adult learning literature and use adult learning theory to (1) develop an enhanced “understanding of adults as learners”9 and (2) inform the programs they create for internal and external adult audiences.10 This includes training/professional development programs for frontline museum educators (i.e. docents, museum guides, and gallery teachers), which I refer to in this article as gallery educators.

Gallery educators are an essential part of a museum’s adult learning community. This article advocates for a more active presence of adult learning theory in the design and delivery of gallery educators’ training and professional development.

Andragogy and beyond: three adult learning theories

Adult learning theory begins with andragogy. Andragogy serves as an entry point, introducing museum educators to ideas about adult learning. However, museum educators can go beyond andragogy in their work; they can incorporate and apply additional adult learning theory within their practice, especially in the ways they use adult learning theory to prepare gallery educators. How a museum educator applies adult learning theory to his or her daily practice depends on how he or she understands it. To encourage a better understanding of adult learning, I offer an overview of three key adult learning theories “foundational to the field of adult education.”11


Grounded in the idea of experience,12 American educators know andragogy best via the work of Malcolm Knowles.13 Knowles did not invent the term andragogy, but he combined it with his extensive adult education experience to recognize adult learners as both selfdirected and autonomous and to see teachers as facilitators rather than presenters.14

Knowles’ theory of andragogy originally included four principles. In later publications he expanded to six. Adult education professors Sharan Merriam, Rosemary Caffarella, and Lisa Baumgartner succinctly summarized Knowles’ principles as follows:

Knowles originally advanced the following four assumptions:

1. As a person matures, his or her self-concept moves from that of a dependent personality toward one of a self-directed human being.

2. An adult accumulates a growing reservoir of experience, which is a rich resourcefor learning.

3. The readiness of an adult to learn is closely related to the developmental tasks ofhis or her social role.

4. There is a change in time perspective as people mature—from future application of knowledge to immediacy of application. Thus, an adult is more problem centered than subject centered in learning. [Knowles, 1980, 44–45]

In later publications, Knowles also referred to a fifth and a sixth assumption:

5. The most potent motivations are internal rather than external (Knowles &Associates, 1984, 12).

6. Adults need to know why they need to learn something (Knowles, 1984).15

Merriam recognizes andragogy as “probably the best-known set of principles or assumptions to guide adult learning practice,” and a cornerstone of adult education theory.16 However, scholars often treat Knowles’ andragogy more as foundational truth than theory. Merriam, for example, argues that andragogy describes the characteristics of adult learners more than the actual nature of adult learning.17 Perhaps this is why these characteristics, while significant to andragogy, also generally apply to pedagogy18—the biggest difference being adults have a larger reservoir of experience to draw from. As adults pull from their extensive life experience, it continues to grow and consistently serves as a resource for learning.19

The term pedagogy refers to the study (method) and best practices of teaching. The term pedagogy surfaced in Middle French around the mid-to-late 1500s with roots in Latin and Greek—literally translating to “to guide or teach a child.”20 People often view pedagogy in relation to the learning and teaching of youth/children, but this creates a potentially “false dichotomy”21 between pedagogy (child) and andragogy (adult).

How does the education field define an adult? It often uses age to define who is and is not an adult, but the reality is “the difference goes beyond age and years”22 and includes complex influences such as cultural and developmental cues. As associate professor Geraldine Holmes and extension educator Michele Abington-Cooper point out:

Most educators assume that it is easy to distinguish an adult learner from a younger learner just look at the difference in years. But the difference goes beyond age and years. Think about the many possible concepts of an adult such as a dictionary’s definition or biological, physiological, legal, social, psychological, spiritual and moral definitions … .The various concepts of an adult learner become even more confusing when we try to integrate them with our personal beliefs of what an adult learner should be.23

Knowles’ andragogy receives criticism for not adequately recognizing the socio-cultural context of the learner (the learner’s personal history and culture in combination with the context where the learning happens).24 Despite criticisms of andragogy, many of today’s existing adult learning theories developed from reactions (agreements, disagreements, and challenges) to Knowles’s work.25

Andragogy’s principles provoke educators to recognize the power of experience. Adult learning theories, such as self-directed learning and transformative learning, build on andragogy’s ideas about adult learning and provide museum educators with a foundational framework26 for working with adult learners.

Self-directed learning

Adults let their interests guide their learning; they are self-directed, meaning they prefer planning and directing their own learning.27 Self-directed learning (SDL) places the responsibility of learning on the individual. With more than 40 years of research, the literature on SDL includes a variety of models explaining how learners progress through an SDL experience,28 but SDL’s three main goals, as described by Merriam, Caffarella, and Baumgartner, remain:

1. to enhance the ability of adult learners to be self-directed in their learning,

2. to foster transformational learning as central to self-directed learning, and

3. to promote emancipatory learning and social action as an integral part ofself-directed learning.29

SDL is not commonly found in museum literature, but museums exhibit many of SDL’s basic concepts and goals. Current museum literature focuses on visitors, but self-directed learning applies to staff too. Richard Banz, author of “Self-Directed Learning: Implications for Museums,” encourages museums to incorporate SDL models into their initiatives to develop further insight about visitors as adult learners.30

Transformative learning

According to Jack Mezirow, the acknowledged founder of transformative learning, learning experiences can challenge and transform adults’ perspectives.31 Originally described as perspective transformation,32 transformative learning roots itself in experiential and holistic learning, as an agent of social change.

Unlike andragogy and self-directed learning, which focus on characteristics of adult learners, transformational learning places greater emphasis on the process of meaning making from an adult learner’s experience. Museum educators, such as Lois Silverman, discuss the importance of meaning making in object-based museum learning. Silverman described “meaning making” as a paradigm whereby “communication is a process in which meaning is jointly and actively constructed through interaction.”33 Transformative learning theory supports Silverman’s idea of “meaning making.”

Transformative learning studies how adult learners change as a result of significant shifts in their personal, socio-cultural perspectives.34 A learner becomes self-empowered by making sense of life experiences (and knowledge) which can dramatically alter the learner’s perspective and identity. When Mezirow and associates introduced transformative learning into the field, it profoundly changed views on adult learning. Adult learning involved more than the mastery of skills, it incorporated a more complete view of the learner and grounded itself in the very ideas of experience, identity, and process.

Transformative learning is a process. This process begins with a disorienting dilemma —a life event or experience35 that does not fit within a person’s current perspective and cannot be solved using previous problem-solving strategies. This prompts that person to work through his/her assumptions and beliefs. Then, she/he explores, experiments, and discusses new ways to solve the dilemma. Discussing this encourages the learner to test assumptions and develop new understandings. Generally speaking, the newly developed viewpoint (transformed belief/perspective) reflects a more inclusive and accommodating outlook than the original concept.

Not all learning is transformative. Art museum educator Rika Burnham knows meaning making can lead to transformative learning, “transformative moments with artworks” and objects.36 Burnham acknowledges that promoting transformative moments is not her primary goal of gallery teaching; she sees it as a potential outcome. When gallery teaching, she strives for a quality, profound experience. Burnham warns:

The temptation of teaching toward transformative experience is very great.

In my view, however, metacognition and transformative learning should occur only as byproducts of a practice whose true objective is facilitating profound experiences of artworks and that acknowledges that the lasting impact of such experiences depends upon their deep and convincing quality. Just as we must beware the temptation to predetermine the content of our students’ encounters with the artworks we teach, so must we equally beware the temptation to predetermine, even unconsciously their value. We must have the courage to teach without expectations, in every sense.37

Adult learning theory provides museum educators with the opportunity to think about their teams of gallery educators as adult learners and apply ideas about adult learning and museum education to their professional practice.

Applying adult learning theory to museum education practice

Museums typically gear their gallery educator training and continuing professional development towards the mastery and accurate delivery of factual content. Robin Grenier, associate professor of adult learning at the University of Connecticut, studied docent training programs and discovered museum educators apply “very little” theory to docent “learning and training processes.”38

Grenier observed a training session where the instructors talked steadily, did not exemplify the educational concepts the museum educator expressed to Grenier in an earlier interview, and failed to factor in time for trainees to think or process the material.

At no point did the trainers do what the museum educator stated in our interview, which was to stop talking and let people think. The rapid-fire delivery moved at a daunting pace and docents struggled to keep up. At one point I overheard a docent comment to another docent, “Did you get that? I can’t write this down fast enough.”39

The description above does not reflect the needs of the adult learner, nor does it model for gallery educators how to use content to successfully engage museum visitors. Museum educators want to meet learners where they are, not force-feed content via rapid delivery. Andragogy, self-directed, and transformative learning remind educators how adults learn best—by engaging with material in their own time, connecting material to their selfdirected interests, and linking it with their personal experience. Adults need time to take content in, play around with it, compare it to what they already know, and develop their own conclusions. Adults are pragmatic. Adults want educational experiences they can instantly apply directly to their work.

Working with an audience of adult learners and educators: one example from my work

Front-line gallery educators, such as Shelburne Museum’s visitor guides, are one of the vital museum populations with whom I work. I view gallery educators as (1) staff, (2) adult learners, (3) museum educators, and (4) one of the adult audiences I work with as a museum educator. From this standpoint the Shelburne Museum’s visitor guide program is a hub of adult education.

Consequently, when Angela (Pratt) Hronek40 and I designed a training41 in April 2013 to introduce a new tour highlighting Colonial Revival and two houses42 on Shelburne Museum’s campus, we created an active, experiential training built on the visitor guides’ pre-existing knowledge. Previously, these visitor guides prepared for new tours using scripts provided by the education department and attended presentations from experts (generally the curatorial staff).

We took a different approach. We did not hand out a didactic script. We did not rush through information. We did not have a curator take the guides on a walkthrough of the buildings. Instead, we created an overarching structure, as a guideline, and let visitor guides complete it based on their self-directed learning interests. We incorporated opportunities for collaborations and teamwork to encourage and reinforce a community culture of adult learning. We provided time for practice and conversations with peers as critical friends.

We provided resources, including key phrases and ideas the guides associated with Colonial Revival. We talked briefly about how adults learn and our favorite tour experiences as visitors. Participants spent time reading resources and developing suggested talking points for the tour together. Working in small groups, we each designed a section of the tour. Then each group modeled the section it created for the whole class.

Guides responded positively and expressed delight in this new format. They enjoyed the learning experience the new training format created. The structure of the training responded to the learning needs of the group and the expectations we set at the start of the day.

Since guides value content and expectations do not disappear overnight, we intentionally included one expert presentation into the training. Nancie Ravenel, Shelburne Museum’s objects conservator, shared her knowledge, experience, and perspective, looking at Stencil House and its decorative stencils43 from the point of view of a conservator.44 Her presentation did not tell the guides what to address in their tours; it served as a resource for guides to draw upon. Nancie’s presentation was not an information dump, but an accessible, engaging narrative about her work. As she spoke, her word choices and demeanor naturally modeled how to share technical information without overwhelming her audience of guides. After Nancie shared her initial presentation, the guides engaged with her in an interactive question and answer discussion. The discussion supported guides’ learning needs and encouraged guides to further explore Nancie’s work and all the resource materials on hand.

Throughout the training, Angela and I coupled content-rich resources with learningcentered activities. Visitor guides prepared and developed a new tour45 in collaborative groups while engaging as both adult learners and educators. This approach supported each learner’s individual needs while engaging an already active group of adult learners and educators, but how might museum educators take the strategy of this example and apply it to the larger context of adult learning and gallery teaching? Museum educators can make learning a personal process and create opportunities for front-line educators to experience the value of their work.

Engaging with adult learning and gallery teaching: a personal process and a “profound and meaningful enterprise”

Andragogy, self-directed learning, and transformative learning identify learning as a personal process. How do museum educators build this personal process into training? They must (1) shift their training approach from content-centered to learning-centered and (2) embrace and use the personal process to illustrate the power of object-centered learning in training design. This does not mean abandoning content, only that instructors weave content into a structure that supports adult learning.

For example, ask teams of gallery educators what they want to know and what they expect from training. Use this information to collaboratively build training and professional development focused on these ideas. Provide optional resources for team members to read if interested. Create engaging activities and opportunities for dialogue. Model the teaching that gallery educators should emulate and give them time to practice. Make training directly applicable to the work gallery educators do. When possible, create training sessions that marry museum education literature with adult learning theory.

Take art museum educator Ray Williams’ approach to tours (what he describes as “Honoring the Personal Response”46), which illustrates key ideas about adult learning. Williams encourages his audiences to personally reflect on and connect with museum objects (adult learning draws on life experience). He distributes prompts47 that encourage intimate connections between tour participants and the objects they select in response to their specific prompt (adult learning is personal and influenced by socio-cultural contexts). Williams weaves these responses into group conversation as people share (adult learning respects the knowledge of the learner).

Inspired by adult learning theory and Williams’ work, I created Color! Contemplation & Conversation, a guide-training activity exploring color and Shelburne Museum’s quilts.48 Guides drew question cards out of a vase. The questions asked guides to connect color and personal experience with a quilt of their choice.49 After guides spent time looking and selecting a quilt in response to their question, we gathered as a group and everyone shared their personal, meaningful stories. This led to a conversation about how, as a result of this activity, guides looked at the quilts differently. Guides wondered how this approach might work with museum visitors; how they might apply this learning experience to their daily work with visitors.

The sheer volume of adult learning literature might make applying it to museum education feel like a monumental task, until one realizes the similarities and differences between the two. Take the concept of constructivism, for example. A theory of knowledge (epistemology) and a learning theory, constructivism posits that people create knowledge and meaning out of the interplay between their experiences and ideas.50 Constructivism manifests itself in the work of museum education and adult learning in several areas including experiential learning, transformational learning, reflective practice, communities of practice, and situated learning.

Following the lead of constructivism, the museum field often discusses the power of meaning making and the role object-based learning and the museum experience play in the creation of this meaning. George E. Hein writes about Learning in the Museum, progressive education, and the work of John Dewey.51 Rika Burnham and Elliott Kai-Kee draw from Dewey’s idea of “an experience” when developing and refining their dialogic approach to gallery teaching, explored in Teaching in the Art Museum: Interpretation as Experience.52 John Falk and Lynn Dierking write about the interactive experience model, the contextual model of learning, and what they call “free-choice learning.”53 Falk also theorizes about museum visitor’s learning identities.54 Each of these elements intersects with adult learning in its own way.

For instance, while some may see “free-choice learning” in the same category as selfdirected learning, Banz categorizes free-choice learning as “a ‘competing concept,’ a term used to identify concepts which share certain similarities to SDL.”55 When I think about self-directed learning in comparison to free-choice learning and consider Falk’s museum visitor learning identities, I agree with Banz. Banz does not see all of Falk’s visitor identities as self-directed. He bases his argument on the premise “that not all identities are self-directed (or can vary depending upon the situation), nor do these identities occur on a continuum.”56 Self-directed learning, according to Banz, provides the broader framework museums need to continue improving their work and widening their audiences. Self-directed learners operate within the context of their environment, places such as museums, homes, and the classroom, and interact with their fellow learners and instructors, but that does not diminish the learner’s responsibility—in many ways the environment enhances it, along with the learner’s motivation to learn.

When museum educators combine adult learning theory with museum education, it strengthens the field’s practice. When museum educators model solid adult learning practices with gallery educators, the gallery educators, in turn, develop greater awareness of their own practices and educational interactions with visitors.

As Burnham and Kai-Kee write:

If docents are convinced that what they do is respected as a profound and meaningful enterprise, and if educators model for their docents the kind of teaching they believe in, then the docents themselves will make positive changes in their practice as a matter of course.57

These positive changes may lead us to a new frontier, or as, educator Louise Connolly wrote in 1914, “The museum of the future will develop the docent’s work to a degree thus far unimagined.”58 Let us imagine their unimagined and make it the new reality of adult learning in museums.


1. Grenier, “Museums as Sites of Adult Learning,” 151–6.

2. “andragogy,” Merriam-Webster, Accessed September 11, 2015, http://www.merriam-webster. com/dictionary/andragogy .

3. Visitor guides at Shelburne Museum are part-time, paid, seasonal front-line museumeducators.

4. Dudzinska-Przesmitzki and Grenier, “Nonformal and Informal Adult,” 19.

5. Dudzinska-Przesmitzki and Grenier, “Nonformal and Informal Adult Learning in Museums”, 9–22.

6. Collins, ed., Museums, Adults and the Humanities.

7. Horn, “Preface,” xi–xii. 8. Horn, “Preface,” xi–xii.

9. Merriam, Caffarella and Baumgartner, Learning in Adulthood, 83.

10. Johnson, “Docent Training Guidelines,” 29–46.

Museum educator Anna Johnson, for instance, identifies museum education “as any museum activity pursued with a view of facilitating knowledge or experiences for public audiences.” Johnson’s definition leaves out internal audiences, such as staff.

11. Merriam, “Adult Learning,” 29–34.

12. Dewey, Experience and Education.

You can’t talk about experience or education without referencing the great John Dewey. As esteemed philosopher and educational theorist John Dewey wrote on page 90–91 in Experience and Education,

What we want and need is education pure and simple, and we shall make surer and faster progress when we devote ourselves to finding out what education is and what conditions have to be satisfied in order that education may be a reality and not a name or a slogan. Dewey’s quest to discover “what education is” led him to the key concept of experience.

13. Knowles, ed., Handbook of Adult Education.

Knowles, The Modern Practice of Adult Education.

Knowles, Self-Directed Learning.

Knowles and Associates, Andragogy in Action. Knowles, The Adult Learner.

14. Henschke, “Considerations Regarding the Future of Andragogy,” 34–37.

15. Merriam, Caffarella and Baumgartner, Learning in Adulthood, 84.

16. Merriam, “Adult Learning.”

17. Merriam, “Adult Learning.”

18. Diffen, “Andragogy vs. Pedagogy,” Accessed September 11, 2015. difference/Andragogy_vs_Pedagogy.

19. Knowles and Associates, Andragogy in Action.

20. “Andragogy vs. Pedagogy.”

21. “Pedagogy vs. Andragogy, Accessed September 15, 2015. JOTS/Summer-Fall-2000/holmes.html.

22. “Pedagogy vs. Andragogy: A False Dichotomy?”

23. “Pedagogy vs. Andragogy: A False Dichotomy?”

24. Knowles and Associates, Andragogy in Action.

25. Hiemstra, “More Than Three Decades of Self-Directed Learning,” 5–8.

Interesting fact: Scholar Cyril Houle, who played a prominent role in drawing attention to selfdirected learning in adult education taught Malcolm Knowles who became a key adult learning scholar in his own right. As Hiemstra writes on page 5 of “More Than Three Decades of SelfDirected Learning: From Whence Have We Come?”: “Houle served as an inspiration to many people during his long life. He also served as dissertation advisor to … Malcolm Knowles … ”. 26. Merriam, “Adult Learning,” 29.

Merriam refers to Andragogy, Self-Directed Learning, and Transformational Learning as the foundational theories of adult learning.

27. Tough, The Adult’s Learning Projects.

28. Merriam, “Adult Learning.”

29. Merriam, Caffarella and Baumgartner, Learning in Adulthood, 107.

30. Banz, “Self-directed Learning Implications for Museums,” 43–54.

31. Mezirow and Associates, Learning as Transformation.

32. Brookfield and Holst, Radicalizing Learning, 32.

33. Silverman, “Making Meaning Together,” 231.

34. Mezirow and Associates, Learning as Transformation.

35. That learning starts with a problem is at the core of John Dewey’s work. But he includes minor “problems” as well as life changing ones.

36. Burnham and Kai-Kee, Teaching in the Art Museum, 67.

37. Burnham, “The Last Temptation,” 148.

38. Grenier, “Do as I Say, Not as I Do,” Accessed September 18, 2015. Proceedings/2005/Proceedings/Grenier.PDF, 1.

39. Robin Grenier, “Do as I Say, Not as I Do,” 4.

40. Angela (Pratt) Hronek worked as an education fellow at Shelburne Museum from 2011 to2013. Education fellows assisted with the development and implementation of education programs such as summer camps, family programs, school programs, tours and guide trainings, and programs for adult audiences.

41. A day-long training held on April 22, 2013 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

42. The two houses are Prentis House and Stencil House. Prentis House, a salt-box colonial housedating from 1773, came to Shelburne Museum in 1955 from Hadley, Massachusetts. Museum staff moved it from its original location and brought it to Shelburne. Stencil House hails from Columbus, New York. In 1953, the Museum acquired Stencil House as an example of the small side-gabled houses built in New York and New England during the 17th and 18th centuries. Shelburne Museum, A Guide to the Collections.

43. Between approximately 1810 and 1830, an artist painted Stencil House’s walls (floor to ceiling) with decorative stenciled designs in the entrance hall, parlor and dining rooms. Shelburne Museum, A Guide to the Collections.

44. Ravenel, “‘There Is a House,” Accessed September 11, 2015. coolaic/sg/wag/2005/ravenel_05.pdf.

45. Ultimately, each guide developed their own tour, but modeled it after (1) the initial structure Ipresented during the training and (2) the prototype tour the group collaboratively built on the day of the training. The whole group split into smaller groups. Working in these small groups, each group developed a section of the tour. Then, each group modeled the section it created for the whole group. The tour format gave guides the freedom they needed to tailor the tour to their individual strengths and style preferences.

46. Williams, “Honoring the Personal Response,” 93–101.

47. Examples of the questions Ray used include:

. “Find a work of art that reminds you of something from your pasts … Think about the connections.”

. “Find the work of art that is most like you. What qualities do you have in common?”

. “Find an object that, for you, embodies pure JOY!”

. “Find a work of art that has something to say about life in the modern world.”

48. I created this activity for a one-hour training session as part of my dissertation research. Weconducted the activity during the training on June 5, 2013, and had a conversation about the activity and guides’ experiences on June 19, 2013.

49. Examples of questions I used include:

. “Find a quilt that has something to say about the role(s) color plays in your life.”

. “Find a quilt with colors that make you want to sing! Hear the soundtrack you connect with it in your head. What does it sound like?”

. “Find a quilt with colors that remind you of a time when you took a risk in your life. Think about the connection.”

. “Find a quilt with colors that, for you, exemplify the qualities of an outstanding Shelburne Museum guide. Think about the reasons for this choice.”

50. Hein, Learning in the Museum, 34.

51. Hein, Learning in the Museum.

Hein, Progressive Museum Practice.

52. Burnham and Kai-Kee, Teaching in the Art Museum: Interpretation as Experience.

53. Falk and Dierking, The Museum Experience. Falk and Dierking, Learning from Museums.

Falk and Dierking, Lessons without Limit.

John Falk and Lynn Dierking, The Museum Experience Revisited.

54. Falk, Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience.

55. Banz, “Self-directed Learning Implications for Museums,” 45.

56. ibid., 45.

57. Burnham and Kai-Kee, Teaching in the Art Museum: Interpretation as Experience, 17.

58. Connolly, The Educational Value of Museums, 60.

Disclosure statement

No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author.

About the author

Kimberly H. McCray’s professional work connects theory and practice and encourages interdisciplinary, progressive approaches to adult learning and museum programs. Ms. McCray is the adult programs coordinator at Shelburne Museum and a doctoral student at Lesley University. Her dissertation research explores infusing adult learning and development theory into the training/professional development of visitor guides (front-line museum educators) at Shelburne Museum.


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Brookfield, Stephen and John Holst. Radicalizing Learning: Adult Education for a Just World. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011.

Burnham, Rika. “The Last Temptation: Teaching Toward Peak Experiences.” In Teaching in the Art Museum: Interpretation as Experience, edited by Rika Burnham, and Elliott Kai-Kee, 143–149. Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2011.

Burnham, Rika, and Elliott Kai-Kee. Teaching in the Art Museum: Interpretation as Experience. Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2011.

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Grenier, Robin. “Do as I Say, Not as I Do.” Paper presented at the Proceedings of the 46th Annual Adult Education Research Conference (AERC), The University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, 2005, Accessed September 18, 2005. PDF .

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Hiemstra, Roger. “More Than Three Decades of Self-Directed Learning: From Whence Have We Come?” Adult Learning 14, no. 4 (2003): 5–8.

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