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Museum Learners Club: Social Environments for Inclusive Learning

By Susan Davis Baldino


The Museum Learners Club is a socially mediated learning environment that welcomes diverse learners. This thesis presents its philosophical and theoretical foundations and an ethnographic account of how I tested it with learners on the autism spectrum and their non-autistic peers. In theory and in practice, the Museum Learners Club demonstrates the efficacy of museums for inclusive learning and the significance of a secure museum-school partnership.\ud The idea of the Museum Learners Club originated from progressive learning theory that is a hallmark of the museum studies discourse. It was further developed through an examination of the personal and social nature of knowledge, the process of learning, and designs for learning from the fields of philosophy, cognitive psychology, and knowledge management. \ud Leading forces behind my thinking include Michael Polanyi’s convictions of personal and tacit knowledge, Lev Vygotsky’s social constructivism, and Etienne Wenger’s learning theory known as “communities of practice”. The Museum Learners Club was built on the principle that learning occurs as a result of building new understanding from a prior knowledge base through participation and expansion of identities. I describe the Club as a “constructivist community of practice”.\ud The thesis also grapples with challenges of social inclusion and inclusive education. The Museum Learners Club embraces a democratic view of the validity of all learners. It makes provisions to serve a wide range of learning styles including autistic behaviors that can inhibit communication, social interaction and learning. My work complements autism research that values socially based interventions.\ud Success in the field indicated that the Museum Learners Club was a viable participatory framework and proved that learning in museums can enhance typical school education for a diversity of learners. It portends a larger impact for museums, schools and a multicultural world that require equitable learning solutions

Publisher: University of Leicester
Year: 2010
OAI identifier:

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