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I gathered qualitative data by interviewing the museum educators about their training and approach to teaching ELs. I also gathered quantitative data by conducting observations of the museum educators using the statistically reliable Observation Protocol for Academic Literacies OPAL. The OPAL describes eighteen strategies, or indicators, that are necessary for successful EL instruction in the classroom.

Although created for classroom teachers, this tool nevertheless provided rich data about which strategies for successful EL instruction were being implemented by museum educators and which were not. With the exception of the last two bullet points more explicitly directed at EL instruction, the EL strategies in the OPAL are what many of us in the field consider to be good teaching.

Ten of the eighteen indicators those that scored the highest and lowest in my study for effective instruction of ELs include:. In order to enhance inter-rater reliability, a pair of observers conducted several observations of six museum educators teaching classes with a majority EL student population. Observers looked at how effectively each museum educator was implementing the eighteen OPAL strategies.

Highlights

Observers scored each indicator using a Likert scale of 1—6. The Findings. Among the highest scoring indicators for effective EL instruction by museum educators were explaining key terms averaging 5. Overall, my study found that museum educators are providing high quality arts education through effective teaching practices for ELs that promote learning. These effective teaching strategies for ELs, which were particular strengths of the museum educators in my study, are best practices for all learners, since good teaching is good teaching.

Dialogical Model: Listening and Speaking. Of particular importance in EL instruction is the way we model and facilitate discussions with works of art. We can provide a docent- or educator-led lecture conducted solely in English — thus making the experience unintelligible for English Learners. Alternatively, we can provide opportunities for students to share observations and insights, in English or the language of their choice, with us or with their peers.

For English Learners, and I would argue for all of our visitors, the latter approach is crucial — the first approach excludes as my first field trip to the Getty Villa can attest to , the second includes. A key difference is whether museum educators talk at students about the works of art, or whether museum educators facilitate dialogue that is student-centered and inclusive of all of our visitors.

The facilitation can be accessible even if conducted in English, with support such as using flexible groupings for peer-to-peer interaction in their choice of language. Rea and Mercuri , Saunders and Goldenberg , and Snow and Katz emphasize the need for speaking and listening as an important component for English language development.

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Through open-ended, student-centered discussions about works of art, museum educators can effectively implement this strategy. More importantly, student-centered dialogue of works of art not only benefit ELs, it benefits all of our visitors. Again: good teaching is good teaching. If we want students to learn to read, we encourage them to read. If we would like students to be better writers, we encourage them to write. Thus, if we would like students to become more comfortable speaking English, we need to let them speak English.

In this type of classroom discussion, a teacher asks a question, a student responds, and the teacher evaluates the response; and then repeats the process. Instead, class discussions in the museum and in the classroom should be dialogical, meaning an experience that encourages participation by all students — amongst peers — as a means of exploration of ideas and opinions, rather than simply for evaluation.

Vygotsky remarks on the importance of dialogue, as it allows knowledge to be co-created through conversation and questioning. After this process, negotiated meaning emerges. As observed in this study, museum educators often asked open-ended questions to engage students in dialogue. These two emphasized terms deserve further explanation. Dialogical Teaching in the Museum. During the interviews, museum educators discussed the importance of working from art objects. The following is an example of an observation that highlights several effective teaching strategies for ELs and all visitors.

When showing this Chinese landscape painting, the educator challenged. Several students responded with descriptions of trips to Las Vegas and Mexico. And where is the place in nature that you have been?

Reflecting on Practice - RoP

Connection to Social Justice. The visual arts have been proven successful in engaging students of color though these students are the least exposed to quality arts education Rabkin et al.

While it is not the role or responsibility of museums to provide English instruction, we can be places where good teaching, instruction that is welcoming and inclusive, can take place. By promoting teaching that provides students opportunities to dialogue about works of art, to have discussions with us and with their peers in a low-risk, welcoming environment, we can be that place that honors and respects their diverse, lived experiences. If art museums want to remain relevant within their communities, they ought to have authentic relationships with those increasingly diverse communities U.

Census Bureau, Museum educators, and museums as institutions, must welcome and include the voices of those that have been silenced and allow for multiple and alternative interpretations of the works of art in their collections.

Libraries, Archives and Museums: A Strategic Conversation: Opening Talk

Mayer urged museum educators to build a knowledge base that is more culturally diverse, identify culturally diverse curriculum, and adopt teaching strategies that are culturally responsive. If museums and museum educators do not gain self-awareness through critical self-reflection, they, and their programs will continue to be reserved for the elite and serve as yet another example of institutional exclusion, separate and irrelevant to the diverse populations we seek to serve.


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Veronica Alvarez is an educator, historian, and arts advocate. She has worked with elementary, high school, and college students. Prior to LACMA, she worked in the Education Department at the Getty Museum for over 16 years, mostly writing curricula, creating professional development opportunities for teachers, and overseeing the docent program at the Villa.. With a passion for learning and museum education, she recently completed her doctorate at LMU.

Learning Conversations in Museums - CRC Press Book

Her dissertation explored whether museum educators were effectively addressing the needs of English Language Learners. Betancourt, V. Engaging Latino audiences: Visitor studies in practice at the Denver art museum. Evans Eds. Burnham, R.

Learning Conversations in Museums

Teaching in the art museum: Interpretation as experience. Los Angeles, CA: Getty. Cahan, S. Mounting frustration: The art museum in the age of Black power. Fingertip facts. Costantino, T. Training aesthetic perception: John Dewey on the educational role of art museums. Educational Theory, 54 , — Ebitz, D. Qualifications and the professional preparation and development of art Museum educators.

Studies in Art Education, 46 , — Farrell, B. Demographic transformation and the future of museums. Freeman, D. Between worlds: Access to second language acquisition Second Edition. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. We examined the questions and explanations that appeared in conversation occurring under three label conditions Current Label, Added question "Why is this here?

Each exhibit a model of a Victorian workshop, a sectioned Austin Mini Cooper, and a bowl that survived the atomic bomb in Hiroshima, Japan was videotaped for approximately 6 hr in each condition. Findings based on conversations at these exhibits indicated that our guiding question affected visitors' conversations; however, adding the question had different effects at different exhibits. For example, at the Mini-Cooper exhibit, people asked more open-ended questions with the question added than in the current label condition.

At this exhibit there were also more open-ended questions used in conjunction with explanatory responses when the question was present. In contrast, the guiding question at the Hiroshima bowl exhibit had no effect. These results imply that it is important to consider the nature of the exhibit when designing labels that will optimally facilitate learning conversations.