Putting the Formal in Informal: Doctoral Study and Museum Education
Romero, Brittin Ann
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The last few decades marked a period of rapid growth and change in the field of museum education; the position and value of education rose across institutions, coinciding with intensified scrutiny of the qualifications, responsibilities, professional preparation and development of museum educators - all of which connect to professionalization of the field. Some suggestions have been proposed, but a concrete framework or methodology for moving forward is still missing. Within the midst of these debates, an increasing number of museum educators quietly began to pursue doctorate degrees. Surprisingly, although many practitioners herald the benefits of expanding the knowledge, theory and research base of museum educators, discussion has largely ignored the potential benefits of advanced degrees. However, literature on the purpose and value of graduate degrees - particularly doctorates - parallels many of the proposals for the advancement of this field. Furthermore, interesting connections exist between the goals and products of graduate study and general theory on the process of professionalization. Utilizing in-depth interviews, this explorative study attempted to understand the motivations, and professional and educational experiences of museum educators who have pursued doctorates. These scholars confirmed many of the proposed benefits and challenges of graduate study, suggesting that the experience is both personally and professionally rewarding, but also time and labor intensive. For them, the decision to pursue doctoral study was largely self-motivated, and often required a willingness to alter curriculum to meet individual needs and interests - as programs tended to lack focus on informal learning and museum education. However, these discussions also revealed significant implications for the development of a more sustained relationship between the field of museum education and academia; the field of formal education seems to be gaining interest in alternative forms of learning, and beginning to welcome new viewpoints and methodologies.
- Museology