Dana’s Teaching Philosophy 2016

Teaching Philosophy and Interests

 Engaged | Dialogic | Critical


My teaching philosophy and pedagogical practices evolved over time within three institutional cultures—the university, public art museums, and university art museums—and the ways in which I was positioned within those cultures: as a learner, as an educator, and as the member of a larger institutional body. As such, my teaching philosophy, pedagogical practices, and research interests are shaped in a space made manifest by lived experience.

The heart of my teaching is rooted in the work of bell hooks, cultural critic, progressive educator, and feminist scholar:

Progressive educators continue to honor education as the practice of freedom because we understand that democracy thrives in an environment where learning is valued, where the ability to think is the mark of responsible citizenship, where free speech and the will to dissent is accepted and encouraged (hooks, 2010)

In Teaching to Transgress (1994), hooks outlined what she termed engaged pedagogy, an evolving, multilayered practice built upon the foundations of feminist and critical pedagogical strategies. It places education and social justice at the center of a democratic society; situates the teacher and learners as partners in a dialogic relationship where individual perspectives are recognized and the growth of all participants is nurtured; and students are empowered and encouraged to achieve academic excellence through an interactive process of critical thinking. Specific practices that may be employed to support such a pedagogy include creating opportunities for students to connect authentically with the instructor and each other; craft and share personally meaningful narratives; feel a sense of value and agency in the classroom; create understandings through dialogue, academic work, and action; and learn by engaging with subject matter in meaningful and myriad ways. Engaged pedagogy as a practice is necessarily revised, reconsidered, and reconstructed over time and serves as particularly powerful model for students in art/museum education, who are preparing to become socially responsible K–12 teachers, professors, community educators, or art museum educators.

I began teaching in both the art museum and in the university classroom like most educators in those contexts, knowing that there was a particular set of information to be conveyed and I did so in a way that I hoped was interesting, compelling, and that sparked curiosity. I quickly learned that students or visitors who were the most involved were those who had a personal connection with the material, felt comfortable talking with other members of the class (or group) and with me, and gained a sense of satisfaction that came from engaging and discovering with others. While these understandings provided a basic foundation for teaching docent training and education, PreK–12 professional development for teachers, and gallery experiences in the art museum, as well as art, art history, and art education courses, it was not until my education as a doctoral student that postmodern theoretical constructs, most notably feminist deployments of poststructuralism, enabled me to consider the negotiated relationships between identity, perception, power, and knowledge and the implications of their interplay on the learners with whom I worked.

A focus in the field of art museum education on learner-centered models of gallery practice and engagement have informed my pedagogical practices. Examples include “untours,” (otherwise known as emergent curriculum constructed by a group in the space of an hour), free-choice learning, (STEM researchers John Falk and Lynn Dierking’s identity-based characterization of the experiences that take place in informal learning spaces), and constructivist educational practices that build upon existing understandings of learners. In rather poetic explication of gallery teaching by longtime art museum educators Elliott Kai Kee and Rika Burnham, they argue that interpretation (or learning), at it’s heart, is a conversation between an informed facilitator and other people who have important things to say about a particular topic. These dialogic models, emerging as part of an ongoing exploration of the populist and socially-responsive positionality of art museums, inform my classroom practice, docent training and education, and public programming for interpretation and engagement that I facilitate in the art museum context.

The following examples of embodied pedagogical practice are drawn from a class that I generally teach in the fall, titled Art/Art History 475: Contemporary Women Artists. Though I did not train as an art historian, I was offered the opportunity to teach the course due to my work with the contemporary collection and artists at the Palmer Museum of Art. I crafted a syllabus with published and online readings that explored the rich theoretical underpinnings and current practices in the global contemporary art world, then created opportunities for co-constructing knowledge in multiple ways that were engaging and active. Rather than lecturing at the front of the class with PowerPoint presentations, as is pro forma in art history courses, I highlighted work from the readings; connected them with present-day issues using sources from the news, pop culture, and social media; and created space for students to share personal reactions, thoughts, and highlight other artists who explore similar topics. For many of my students, the readings were their first introduction to feminist theory, which is often initially difficult and intimidating. As we eased into the readings, I created an online feminist theory Jeopardy! game with categories such as “–ologies,” “feminist theorists,” “waves,” etc. and handed out the answers on a sheet of paper so that they could, working collaboratively, win prizes by correctly connecting the question and the answers on the screen. Our online forum for the course, sites.psu.edu/contemporarywomenartists, served as a vehicle for shared authority and the co-construction of knowledge. Each student wrote and illustrated a brief in-class presentation on a woman or genderqueer artist whose work fit into the broad thematic criteria for the week and facilitated a discussion about her (or their) work. Additionally, class participants paired up to conduct an interview with a well-known contemporary woman artist for 45 minutes to an hour, effectively demonstrating a capacity for research, synthesizing the readings and real-world situations, and creating an opportunity for rich, complex dialogue with practicing artists. Additionally, members of the course physically encountered contemporary art outside the confines of the class, with visits to the Palmer Museum of Art; student gallery exhibitions in which many of the undergraduate students participated; and studio visits with class members earning MFA degrees. My teaching philosophy does not allow for traditional tests or quizzes, as I fear that they are not realistic or adequate ways of assessing growth and I am not particularly interested in evidence of “mastering” a subject, though I do assign a final project, wherein student may choose from options that demonstrate a respect for and support of each student’s strengths and learning styles. In this class, students could write a biographical essay on an artist of their choosing, explore a particular theme by curating a virtual exhibition, or create a work of art that responded to an artist or topic of discussion in the class. Finally, because our course spanned three hours and was held in the early to late evening hours, students and I volunteered to bring in food and drink to consume together during our break time, enabling all of us to shed our academic personas and develop social connections, if only for a short period each week.

In the very recent past, I have begun to wrestle with post critical/radical museological theory and practices (Dewdney, Dibosa, & Walsh, 2013; Bishop, 2014), which take up the questions posed by critical theoretical examinations of art museums and envision alternative future that might be conceptualized in the form of exhibitions, educational practices, and new institutions. How my teaching practices might be affected by this work is something I am only beginning to know.




Bishop, C. (2014). Radical museology: Or what’s contemporary in museums of contemporary art? Köln, Germany: Walther König.

Burnham, R., & Kai-Kee, E. (2011). Teaching in the art museum: Interpretation as experience. Los Angeles, CA: J. Paul Getty Museum.

Dewdney, A., Dibosa, D., & Walsh, V. (2013). Post critical museology: Theory and practice in the art museum. London and New York: Routledge.

Falk, J. H., & Dierking, L. D. (2002). Lessons without limit: How free-choice learning is transforming education. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press

Hirst, E. & Brown, R. (2008). Pedagogy as dialogic relationship. In M. Hellstén & A. Reid, Researching international pedagogies: Sustainable practice for teaching and learning in higher education, p. 179–201. Sydney, Australia: Springer.

hooks, b. (1994) Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. New York, NY: Routledge.

hooks, b. (2010) Teaching critical thinking: Practical wisdom. New York and London: Routledge.



Motts Military Museum

Motts Military Museum was founded in 1987 by Warren E. Motts of Groveport, Ohio who established the museum as a 501 (C) 3 not for profit tax exempt educational organization. The mission of Motts Military Museum is to: “To educate the public on the importance of America’s military past through the documentation, collection, interpretation, and preservation of tangible artifacts and personal stories of the men and women who served and are serving in the United States Armed Forces.”

Originally established in the Motts family’s 1870 residence, the museum moved in 1999 to a more modern 5,100 square foot facility with nearly four acres of land. The new building and grounds were given to the Museum through the generosity of Columbus Attorney Robert R. Richards who was a former special agent of the War Department during World War II. Over the next several years the museum grew in leaps and bounds. Donations poured in from veterans and their families. The museum secured many vehicles, military aircraft, and a Higgins Boat from World War II. In 2001, the museum broke ground for a new wing and as funds were available the museum’s volunteer crew, many of whom were professional carpenters, electricians and other skilled tradesmen, worked on the 5,200 square feet area. By 2006, the entire structure was completed and paid in full. On May 23, 2015 the new wing was dedicated.


Motts Military Museum, Inc.
5075 South Hamilton Rd.
Groveport, Ohio 43125-9336
Phone: (614) 836-1500

Our Hours
Tuesday – Saturday: 9 am to 5 pm Sunday: 1 pm to 5 pm
Holiday Hours:
Thanksgiving Day: Closed
Christmas Day: Closed
Closes at Noon the day before Thanksgiving Day & Christmas Day

Adults: $10.00
Seniors/Veterans with ID: $8.00
Students: $5.00
Children 5 and under: FREE

The Motts Military Museum is located
just southeast of Columbus, Ohio.


Toledo Museum of Art



-family center activities, printmaking

-free baby tours- encourage visual literacy in babies

Toddler Time Tours- multi sensory experience with works of art

-free monthly programs to provide meaningful museum visits for people experiencing the early stages of memory loss and their companions.

Guest presentations, Glass programs public demo

Wine tastings

TMA Masters Series -consists of public programs featuring world-renowned artists, scholars, musicians and others who are invited to share their knowledge and talents at the Museum. Held in the grand Peristyle Theater

Art classes and workshops

Family Flashlight tours

Veterans glassblowing event

Gallery Gear- Three new activity kits provide fun ways for parents to talk about artwork with children aged 2–8. Each Gallery Gear tote bag provides hands-on learning experiences inspired by one of three works of art:

  • The Architect’s Dream by Thomas Cole (Main Museum)
  • Egyptian burial case for Ta-Mit (Main Museum)
  • Counterman-Dinerby Emily Brock (Glass Pavilion)

Families take the totes to the galleries where they read books related to the theme of the artwork and explore creatively using various multi-media materials. A parent guide provides suggestions on how to engage children to look at works of art in new ways.

Art Classes, glass art workshops


Reference library

Resources for educators

Teacher professional development

Museum Philosophy

The museum places an importance on visual literacy and community activity.  The museum’s aim is to teach people to learn by seeing.  They are doing this through tours and programs that encourage people to develop a visual understanding. They don’t favor digital learning, but they do seem to allow for some tactile education. They also provide visual language workshops, classes, tours, gallery experiences, hands-on activities, and lectures all focused on visual learning.

They seem to be aiming for families, children, and teachers who want to learn more to ways to encourage visual literacy. They place a great importance on teaching and learning how to look at and comprehend art.

Our purpose is Art Education.  We teach people to learn to see by engaging with the collections of the Toledo Museum of Art.  Under the umbrella of art history, we engage people with visual culture and methods of seeing including the formal language of art, iconology, ideology, semiotics and hermeneutics.”

Teaching Staff

At the museum they have a director of education, manager of curriculum, docent program manager, family center manager, manager of studio programs, education and engagement coordinator. It seems as though they have a fair amount of people devoted to education. This is evidenced by their many programs focused on ways of encouraging visual literacy in different age groups.

Targeted Age Groups

The types of activities that the museum has hint at the fact that there are many families and children within the community. It’s reflected within the programs that are offered.  The programs expand from baby programs to that of programs catered to those with Alzheimer’s. All are meant to encourage visual learning and foster a sense of community. They are encouraging an atmosphere of learning through classes offered and programs that pay attention to what families find stimulating. Like the flashlight after dark tours. (Something that has largely been popularized due to Night at the Museum).

Tom’s Presentation

The Art Institute of Chicago’s home page opens with a large splash image of current exhibitions and seven labeled links. Upon hovering over the link titled “Learn”, a drop-down menu appears with the main categories the Institute uses to define their educational programs. These categories are: For Student Tours, For Teachers (Pre-K through 12), For Teens, For Families, For Adults, Journeymaker, and Multimedia.

What specific opportunities are available?

For Student Tours – The museum offers both docent-led and teacher tours for school children. The website says that docent-led tours “emphasize close looking, discussion, and critical and creative thinking by making connections with works of art” (Art Institute of Chicago). All student tours require an application beforehand.

For Teachers – In addition to tours, the museum partners with 4th and 5th grade public schools in Chicago to give students “sequential experiences with works of art to stimulate the development of critical and creative thinking skills” (Art Institute of Chicago). The website doesn’t offer any further information on the curriculum but the teachers in this program rotate every two years. The museum also has the Crown Family Educator Resource Center, a resource center for educators at all grade levels to check out materials for use in the classroom. The rest of this section of the website advertises professional workshops offered to help teachers bring art education and object-based learning into their classrooms.

For Teens – The Institute offers a number of free programs aimed at Chicago teens. They have Thursday Night Hangs, which are presented as informal meet-ups to see and talk about art. They feature live artist performances, snacks, the chance to talk to artists, and “experimental programs”. At one point they offered an event called Saturday Studio Workshops, but this has been temporarily canceled to be redesigned. The Institute also has an annual free teen night in June called Exuberus. No details for this event are listed on the site yet.

In addition to events, the Institute runs Teen Lab, an after-school program for Chicago high school students. It offers field trips, behind the scenes tours, and the opportunity to display their work in a special reception at the Institute. Finally, there is the Teen Council. This is an organization of local teens that helps plan many of the teen events provided at the Institute.

For Families – This page of the website offers a number of workshops and special events aimed at children and their families. There is an art studio that allows families to work on their own art projects, a picture book program aimed at children under three years of age, and several workshops designed for children of varying ages that provide experience in the galleries and with making their own art. There are also family festivals that connect to a particular gallery. The most recent of these festivals was Diwali inspired by India Modern: The Paintings of M. F. Husain.

In addition, the website promotes a program called Journeymaker. This is an attached website that allows families to create their own tour of the galleries based on a specific theme. They then have to print out the guide to their tour which will give directions to and information about the pieces they chose. It is not compatible with mobile devices.

For Adults – The adult education section of the website contains programs designed for several different age groups and demographics. There are regular gallery talks that are open to all visitors. There are non-credit courses offered in art and art history. There are lectures offered by visiting scholars, talks given by contemporary artists, performances, and concerts. They offer visits for university classes and have partnerships with a number of local colleges. They offer several programs directed at senior citizens including Art Insights, which offers presentations for seniors unable to attend the museum, and Art in the Moment, which invites individuals with dementia and their care partners to come to the Institute for discussions and art-making. The Institute partners with a number of local Community Associates, groups which put on additional lectures and events for the community. Finally, the website advertises programs for businesses looking for locations for work-related events.

The Multimedia section is sadly lacking, with only two youtube videos from 2014 and a single podcast.

What do these experiences say about the museum’s educational philosophy?

The Art Institute clearly wants to be relevant to as many people as possible and they attempt to do this by providing educational programs for as many groups as possible. The prominent place that education has on their home page suggests that they consider it to be one of the main purposes of their institution, but that education takes on a number of different forms. Some of their programs, such as the family festivals and some workshops, are focused on connections with galleries. Others are completely separate from the galleries and take place off to the side in the Ryan Learning Center. It’s difficult to pick out a single educational philosophy because the Institute seems to have said yes to so many different ideas. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it gives the impression that the museum wants to be all things to all people.

What particular audiences seem to be served through these programs?

As mentioned in the previous section, the Art Institute is clearly trying to appeal to and serve a broad range of audiences. Particular focus is given to Chicago and Illinois patrons, who often receive discounts or free admission, and there seem to be two particular groups that the museum markets itself toward. These are Chicago teens and middle class families. These two audiences have the most colorful and inviting sections of the website. While every education section has some pictures and text explaining available events, the family and teen sections have significantly more and are written in such a way as to convince someone to attend. There is an implicit assumption in the other sections that the audience is making the effort to look up information about events. The teen and family sections, on the other hand, actively invite users to keep exploring and find out more.

The website emphasizes their programs for teens as a distinct category and the first thing anyone sees in the teen section is the fact that the museum is free for all Chicago teens. The programs in question are mostly designed as after-school events. They provide food and engagement, which suggests they were designed for teens that have nowhere else to go.  The family section not only provides parents with lists of potential events but also suggestions for food, stroller logistics, and breast-feeding locations. No other section provides so much information designed to coax their audience to attend.

How many/what kind of educators work at or volunteer at the museum?

The Institute’s website doesn’t make it easy to find lists of employees from the home page, but a staff/faculty list indicates that there are 26 employees listed under Museum education and Interpretive Exhibitions/Family Programs. These include lecturers and directors for the various categories of programs (family/adults/teens/etc).

The museum offers several internships, some paid others unpaid, that involve museum education. The unpaid internships tend to tend to deal with the logistics of planning museum events while the paid internship focuses on museum education theory and practice. High school students are also offered internships that may involve working on public events aimed and teens and families.

The museum also has over 800 volunteers working primarily as greeters and staff for the info desks. These volunteers are described as being “the face of the museum” and ensure that visitors have the most up to date information.

How does this program respond to the particular geography/community in which it is situated?

The Institute clearly wants to engage a Chicago audience in its educational programs and it shows this in several ways. First, it tries to engage Chicago youth through partnerships and events. The discounted or free admission for Chicago teens and youth along with the after-school programs indicates that they are at least trying to reach out to youth of lower socio-economic status. Second, it attempts to cater to the specific language barriers of Chicago. The Journeymaker app has been translated into Spanish, Polish, and Chinese which are some of the most common languages used in Chicago aside from English.





“The National Gallery of Art was conceived and given to the people of the United States by Andrew W. Mellon (1855–1937). Mellon was a financier and art collector from Pittsburgh who came to Washington in 1921 to serve as secretary of the treasury. During his years of public service he came to believe that the United States should have a national art museum equal to those of other great nations.”


“The mission of the National Gallery of Art is to serve the United States of America in a national role by preserving, collecting, exhibiting, and fostering the understanding of works of art at the highest possible museum and scholarly standards.

Policies and procedures toward these goals are cumulatively set forth in the Gallery’s legislation, bylaws, trustee action, and staff guidelines. The following general definitions outline the goals of the Gallery.

  1. Preserving
  2. Collecting
  3. Exhibiting
  4. Fostering Understanding
    The Gallery’s role as an institution dedicated to fostering an understanding of works of art operates on a broad spectrum. From advanced research conducted by its curators, conservators, and at its Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts to the dissemination of knowledge to visitors and to the widest possible online audiences, the Gallery seeks to educate. The Gallery reaches out to students of all ages and to the general public through informed publications on its collections and exhibitions and an array of educational programs, films, and online initiatives. It acquires both print and digital publications, photographic images, and other research materials related to its collections and to the history and appreciation of art in general; and it makes these resources available online or by appointment through the library, gallery archives, and curatorial records. The Gallery recognizes that both the dissemination of information and the enhancement of the aesthetic experience are essential to fostering understanding of works of art. Ancillary programs furthering its aesthetic role, such as concerts and changing horticultural displays, have been part of the Gallery’s mission virtually since its inception and have expanded to include outdoor programs in the Sculpture Garden since its opening in 1999.”


Listing is relatively nonexistent; likely because they are a large institution. Who are they???????

How does this anonymity affect their connection to the community?




“Educational and enrichment programs for visitors, both virtual and in person, are central to the mission of the National Gallery of Art.”

The education portion is divided into 6 main categories:


The following are a highlight of the opportunities based on their 6 categories.


Free image downloads, lesson plans (preK-University level), information on school tours and programs, professional development and learning resources (able to be borrowed).


-Some grade lesson plans include ELL lesson plans!!

– # of lessons and variety in topics/integration available is greater for higher grades

-Lesson Plans and Learning Resources could be combined…..or let’s just use them as the College/University lesson plans?!

-No quick reference to light box that I could see. Would be useful for high school and college/university professors.



Interactive art creating opportunities, such as:



No longer available online but available for download or through iPad app as well.


“Family Programs at the National Gallery of Art are based on a philosophy of slowing down, focusing on one work of art, developing observation and thinking skills, inspiring curiosity and wonder, and fostering collaboration between children and adults.  Many of the programs are age-specific, while others are designed for a broader age range.”

Art Investigators: Ages 4-7

Free drop-in programs, designed for individual families on a first-come, first-served basis. There is no advance registration. Program includes reading a children’s book, exploring one work of art in the galleries, and completing a simple hands-on activity.

Family Workshops: Ages 8-11

Workshops include a conversation in the galleries followed by a hands-on studio art session. Designed for children and adults to work together.  Workshops are free but preregistration is required. Sessions available on Saturdays, Sundays & Mondays (morning and afternoon times).

Film for Children & Teens: All Ages


Information about Volunteer Programs & Films for Teen (Repeated Feature)

“Student volunteers assist with clerical and administrative tasks that support the department’s education programs. Typical activities include preparing materials for art projects, photocopying, collating, and program cleanup.”

Fall or Spring Semsters

4-8 hrs per week




Drawing & Writing Salons (using art as inspiration for creating), Evening at the Edge(live music, theatrical performances & films), Podcasts & Videos, Gallery Talks, Lectures & Book Signings, Guided Tours, Food for thought (seminar luncheon discussion, free but preregistration required), Artist + Artist (Conversations with artists about how objects inspire their practice)



Graduate Curatorial Internships, Internships in the Museum Profession, Summer Internships, Curatorial Fellowships, Research Assistantships.

Privilege given to graduate students and curatorial, conservation and librarian positions.


Financial Accessibility: Free, money not an issue; highly accessible by public transportation.

Hours are Monday–Saturday 10:00–5:00 and Sunday 11:00–6:00.

?: How is free programming advertised? Is knowing about the opportunities privileged or more open to those who seek out the information themselves?

Linguistic Accessibility:

Tours of permanent collection offered regularly, free of charge in Mandarin Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Spanish. Can also be requested in Hebrew, Hungarian, and Portuguese.

Image/Data taken from Ten Years of Language Access in Washington, DC by the Urban Institute (Think Tank focusing on Social and Economic Policy Research)



Physical Accesibility:

Programs for ASL, Low vision/vision impaired, early stage memory loss, and medical professionals. Service Dogs permitted and complimentary wheelchairs available for use.


Cleveland Museum of Art

I did my analysis assignment on the Cleveland Museum of Art because of the technological components (shocker) that they have integrated into their museum which is (in my opinion) a great asset to their educational outreach. Here is the link to their site: http://www.clevelandart.org/  (which is almost is so expansive that I don’t believe I got to every page). I managed to take some screen shots and include some highlights that were relevant to the assignment which you can find HERE. And after searching the depths of their site (and having visited the museum a couple years back) I pulled my thoughts together and offer my analysis HERE. I tend to be long winded and did not want to occupy too much blog space with my ramblings!