Tom’s Educational Philosophy

I believe that education is a responsibility to help individuals best make sense of the world around them. This involves challenging others with new problems or perspectives, providing additional context when needed, and helping them develop the critical thinking skills to tackle questions on their own. Educators should not control knowledge, but instead act as guides to help others build knowledge. This perspective is partially influenced by curriculum theory by post-post-modernism. I seek to strike a balance between giving students a better understanding of objective aspects of the world and those which are only assumed to be objective.

As an educator, my place is not to be a gatekeeper of knowledge or a fountain of universal truths. Anthropology, and every discipline to some extent, is a subject without absolute truths. It combines scientific data with the meaning-making of real people. This contrast means that small shifts in perspective can lead to very different interpretations of the same phenomenon and these interpretations aren’t necessarily in conflict with each other. My role is to highlight that contrast and use it show students how they can build their own knowledge in a world that isn’t subjective, but where meaning can be. I facilitate conversation in the classroom.

In museum spaces, this role specifically involves teaching people about objects and their stories. This means conveying the meaning objects held in their original context but also explaining how we came to believe that. Museum educators must convey that our modern interpretations of objects came from somewhere: be it historical evidence, new theories, or old biases. Museum educators also serve the role of adding a human element to the sometimes isolated museum experience. What this means is that museums often present themselves as clean and sterile. Objects may be viewed in isolation from their original context and visitors often learn only by reading their labels. Many museums still have architecture that mirrors temples. All of this can make a museum experience feel cut off from the rest of the world. Educators are in a unique position to de-sanctify museum spaces and create human connections for visitors.

My ultimate goal in a museum space is to help people find meaning in objects and the stories that surround them. Achieving this may require several smaller goals such as connecting objects to the lives of visitors, explaining the significance of objects in the lives of the people who made them, and telling the stories of how objects ended up on display. In an ideal situation, the questions of visitors drive this conversation. This would help them come away with the information that they care most about and which will be the most meaningful for them when they leave the museum.

My specific approaches would always have to be flexible and draw from several different sources. It would incorporate elements of constructivism as visitors guide the conversation with questions that interest them and by bringing their own stories into the conversation. Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning is also broadly applicable when planning how to present information to visitors and to how to structure a conversation. I can present information over the course of the tour that builds to higher levels of the taxonomy and encourages visitors to synthesize what they’ve learned from different pieces.

No one is ever finished learning and I hope that I continue to learn how best to teach others in any setting I find myself in. I hope to enter into a career in education and over the course of that career I want to learn how to better engage students with material they care about. It can be difficult, especially in public primary school settings, to break away from conventional methods of education. I hope that I can overcome this challenge in a way that interests my future students.

Jessica’s Edu-Philo

First and foremost, I am an artist. I am a creator, a doer, a maker, a designer, all of which has influenced every aspect of my life including my education and how I see myself as an educator. My unconventional navigation through school crossed many intersections of differing academic fields and institutions, each giving me a new set of artistic skills and offering new perspectives that have shaped my personal philosophy.

Through my imagination and creativity, I am a dreamer in every sense and use art as a platform to learn about, explore, and create all of the worlds around me. As far back as I can remember into my creative childhood, I would pluck elements from my surrounding physical world and combine them with ideas from my imagination to create new realities and stories. I was completely fascinated by fictional books and movies with captivating stories, but I became obsessed with the visual elements of the films. Everything from the sets, props and costumes completely blew my mind. I wanted to discover and exist in those worlds. And I remember telling my parents that I wanted to be the person to make those worlds come to life (some day). My imagination behaves more like a camera lens through which I view the layers of the environment around me and continuously reshape. And, it is through this re-shaping and making process that I have become a learner of many things and now an educator.

Teaching is and will always be a continuous learning process for me. Some of the best advice I received from my past educators in which I hope I can now share is to have a willingness to fail and to take risks throughout the learning and creative processes. At first as a student, I was hesitant to welcome failure because it certainly is not comfortable. Through learning from every stage of my processional and academic work, I now have a better understanding and appreciation for failure, and no long fear it. Failure is essential to self-development academically, mentally and emotionally. And, it is through failure that one starts to look closely at the process (in whatever capacity it may be) and learn from it.

As a teacher, I also continue to work through and embrace the delicate balancing act between rigid-structure and open-endedness that I have learned to perform as an artist. Art making offers a type of platform where the boundaries of learning is exponentially infinite. So as an artist and teacher, I greatly value the process of making and learning over the final outcome of a project. Within the classroom, I strive to utilize the technical skills of my digital art medium in order to create contemporary works of art that push my students’ thinking into new domains. This has been a challenge at times because the digital arts are typically viewed as a skill-based technical design platform, not one of free-thinking, artistic exploration. Therefore, many of my students are not comfortable with open-ended projects that involve critical thinking and reflection. They want an extremely rigid structure and a clearly defined end product, but there is no right answer or ideal outcome to the work I assign. Art does not have a right or wrong answer. Other fields look to find the correct result. I on the other hand, look at what a person gains through the process which is relevant and meaningful to each individual in an entirely different way. That itself is extremely powerful. I hope that throughout my future experiences as an evolving educator I can encourage students to explore the impossible of their imagination, take risks with their work, break out of their comfort zone, and fully embrace and value the process of their making and learning experiences.

There have been many influential scholars, artists and theorists who have greatly impacted my education as a student and have shaped my perspectives as an educator. My undergrad fields spanned across classical archeology and art making, which ignited my imagination and creativity. I find inspiration in the determination of past and current archeologists who have discovered lost civilizations and artifacts in forgotten lands. Specifically, in my art-making, Bonnie Collura and Renee Kredell, both professors at Penn State expanded my creative skill set and how I view, critique and learn through my art work. In my master’s program, my advisors in art history and media studies, Caroline Bruzelius and Victoria Szabo, offered me a platform to combine my practical design skills with my interests in historical stories which expanded my learning experiences through continual processes of making and researching. And now through doctoral research in the Arts Education department at Ohio State, I have come to incorporate John Dewey’s Art as Experience and Charles Sanders Pierce’s research in semiotics as foundations to my theoretical and philosophical thinking. I continue to learn from my past and current teachers and artists as well as theorists, as they each day impact my perspectives as a developing artist, learner, researcher, and educator.

Educational Philosophy- Stacey Dunten

It’s hard for me to say what my views on engaging with learners are as I have never really thought of myself as an educator. I am first and foremost an artist. I want to move people with my work.  If I have communicated the feeling I desired to then I have succeeded. That being said, a great deal of my work has attempted to teach the viewers about lesser known figures from history. I wanted to teach them, but not simply hand it to them on a silver platter. I needed to provide the viewer with enough information that they would want to continue researching on their own.  So my approach will always tend to be very hands off. I prefer to let the viewer interpret. And if they don’t come to my conclusions I am satisfied knowing that they came to their own conclusions, that it might have triggered their own train of thought to something I may never thought of. I would consider this adding to my artwork rather than detracting from it. They are enhancing it. I would want my work to be able to stand without anyone having to say anything to the viewer. So I follow more hands off learning strategies. Personally I like to do extra research. I like when I’m given the bones of the story and have to find the rest on my own. It’s fulfilling to me that I am able to contribute to the story in a way.


I position myself as an educator through my work. My thoughts and feelings have been channeled into the work itself. Every decision about color, composition, and content wholly contributes to what I  am trying to teach the viewer or open up to them. Not a single item should seem out of place or not make sense according to the singular message. This is done so that I don’t need to be there trying to prompt the viewer to ask the right questions. The work should be able to stand alone so that I don’t have to physically be there and no one is needed to prompt questions. The whole point of my work is to prompt the viewer to ask questions about it. I don’t need them to know my explicit answers. If my project is about a lesser known historical figure and a viewer finds it interesting I want them to research the person on their own. I feel that the discoveries made in this manner are more fulfilling as they have found them on their own. For me as a viewer, researching information to supplement an artistic piece I’m looking at is like finding golden nuggets of information that I want to share with the world. I want to inspire that in others. To encourage it in an abstract way. It all hinges on my hands off approach.

I believe that museum educators play a very important role. Being able to teach the audience without spelling it out for them is a difficult thing to do. This may be a very naïve point of view but I feel as though designers should work more closely with the museum educators and curators. Juxtaposing the correct objects or arranging them in such a way as to create a cohesive meaning might make a museum educator’s job a bit easier and more efficient. I think that the museum educator is important in facilitating groups and making sure the correct information is given to the docents as well as training them in the proper learning strategies. But I believe that maybe some of the educators should focus on ways to educate without having to be there constantly. I think it would be extremely beneficial to all parties if educators were to think of creative ways to allow the viewer to glean the information without physically having to be there. For me that detracts from the experience sometimes. I would rather walk around by myself and be able to get just as much info as those on a tour group would. Technological enhancements like augmented reality and VR have helped a great deal with this. But I would argue that there might be other ways.

My goal is to be able to create a work of art that will for the most part be able to stand on its own. I will not need it to be explained. The artwork would be made with the goal in mind to encourage the viewer to research on their own.  I want to pique the interest of the viewer so much that they will not be able to go on without doing a bit of research of their own. Most people have very short attention spans because of technology. If I am able to snap their attention long enough to foster their interest then I might be able to encourage them to look it up on their own through that. I want them to appreciate the fascinating stories that I have found and use in my art. There are so many out there. So many people whose stories have fallen through the cracks and been forgotten. I want to bring these stories to light and encourage others to see the beauty that they could have so easily missed had I not done the research. That maybe through them doing their own research, through being curious, they could find something, someone’s story too.

The ways of teaching that I think would facilitate my philosophies are ones that are more hands off in nature. Object based learning could be one way of teaching that coincides well with my thoughts. Being able to focus in and perhaps use augmented reality applications on objects to trigger content would create an interactive object based experience for the viewer. Most importantly the viewer would be drawing conclusions from using their senses and their minds to really focus in closely on it. It would be more of a hands on learning and investigative experience.  This is something I try to encourage in my own artworks.


In the future I intend to finish a thesis that is based upon object oriented meaning making. I will be looking at how we construct meaning through objects. I want to visualize what that connection might look like in  a more abstract way. The challenges I face are in creating a work that is not didactic. I tend to want to show an event verbatim as it would have taken place in real life if I am referencing it. But that cuts any story making I would want to do or any liberties I would want to take out of it. Overall I struggle with abstraction and am very nervous about doing it as I have so rigidly stuck to realism thus far. It may be time to step out of my comfort zone, but it will be very challenging to do so. In the far future I hope to be able to work for an animation studio where I can use my artistic skills to help tell stories. Getting there in itself will be quite challenging.





Educational Philosophy – Kaminski

My views on teaching and learning are ever changing and evolving. This is due to my passion to continue to learn and figure out what I want to do after graduating. As I am nearing the end of my graduate studies I have reflected back on my past experiences that have shaped the learner and educator I have become. In the past 4 years, I have been a student, archivist, historian, museum educator, security officer, private investigator, and world traveler. All of these experiences have shaped the way I approach different situations in my life and how I teach in history museums

Academically, I have studied and majored in two different fields and earned two different undergraduate degrees at Ohio State. Both degrees were Bachelors of Arts and my fields of study were history and anthropology. I continue to learn and am currently pursing a master’s degree in history with a specialization in public history. The classes and internships I have completed have provided me with the information and facts about many different subjects. I have learned about many conflicts and wars and how to present this information through different styles including easy to understand papers and presentations. The course work and classes I completed have taught me to always include background information to set up the context of a discussion before trying to explain a situation or topic. When background knowledge is left out it can leave potential learners confused and without an understanding of the topic or subject they were interested in.

Another source of my teaching inspiration aside from academia is from my employment in various jobs and positions I have held. I have worked in museums and archives as an educator, collector and processor of donated material, archivist, tour guide, and summer camp counselor. I have also worked as a private investigator and security officer. It is my experience with security and intelligence that have really shaped my educational philosophy. In this field you have to have people skills, be able to adapt to an ever-changing situation, and know what to do in order to stay in charge.

The lessons and experiences I have gained from my time in security and intelligence work have directly impacted my education, teaching and learning, as well as provide me with confidence to pursue my goals and objectives. In museum classes, tours, or any other social situation in the hallways learning is involved. New situations or unexpected topics and discussions are started that as a museum educator there is no way to prepare or expect. Being able to take charge and lead discussions as an educator is crucial to ensure that discussion does not get out of control and to ensure that incorrect information is not presented to an audience without correction. Confidence in my knowledge and having the ability to say that I do not know everything and may have to do research to find out answers that are asked of me is crucial to ensure my reputation and the museum’s integrity as a place of learning. Saying I don’t know something is difficult when a group or individual wants an answer.

As an educator, I try to position myself in ways that ensure that my exhibits and conversations speak to, and are understood by, visitors regardless of their education or background. Conversations should flow and relate to each individual because they are personalized and tailored to the particular group I am working with at the time. This requires people skills and the ability to read the audiences reactions to ensure that they understand.

My position of museum educators is to not be confined to working only in the museum’s physical space. I think that educators need to have a background of knowledge and experience and bring that knowledge to both the museum and the community. Museum visitors do not all share the same background and education level. And visitors do not want to struggle to connect and understand exhibits, displays, or staff. Museum educators can and should participate in outreach activities that take exhibits and lessons from the museum directly to the community.

A true educator and museum professional has to have the skills to share information with visitors in ways that the audience will accept and listen to them. These presentations should take the forms of discussions and not be lectures that only include facts. Creating discussion and engaging with learners is vital and a skill that is difficult to teach and learn. Creativity and confidence are important. Having the confidence to adapt previous experiences to new and different situations enables the educator to engage with learners and audience in many divers settings

My thoughts are that the role of educators in museums is very important in shaping the museum visitor’s experience. One of the primary purposes of the educator at the museum is to enable the visitors to experience and understand the period, events, and facts on display. I love working in museums because I am able to use objects and artifacts to help audiences see what was available at the time and used by the people that lived through it. This is especially helpful when teaching military history in a military museum. I love using objects in my lessons and allowing people to see, feel, smell, and touch real and reproductive material objects. This experience really helps learners understand a topic. For example, I have used reproduction artifacts from the American Civil War in my discussion at a museum. It is easy as an educator to say that soldiers would march many miles in a day and that it was difficult and hard on the soldiers. Audience members take this information and often think that it was hard because soldiers were tired from fighting or far from home and becoming home sick. This miscommunication between the audience and myself is easily clarified when objects are used in the same conversation. I have paired this conversation with reproduction shoes with a wooden bottom that have nails holding it to the top leather or hide. I tell my audiences to put their hands in the shoe and feel around. I pass around the pair and ask them which one is the left and which is the right. They soon learn that there is only one shoe and that it could be worn on either the left or right foot. This leaves my audiences understanding that hard and difficult to travel miles is not because of the distance traveled or because the soldiers are far from home. Instead they understand now that the equipment and gear are painful and unpleasant to wear while marching or fighting at the time. This is the purpose of educators in museum spaces. To ensure that the audience leaves with a better understanding and idea of what happened in the past than when they started the tour.

Some goals and ideals that I have in museum spaces are to expand museum staff interaction with visitors. This can be done with direct interaction and conversations with visitors or indirectly through volunteers who have been trained by staff to represent the museum and interact with visitors when staff members are not available. This is why I have worked with education departments and have created guides and manuals for docents and volunteers. These help ensure that the museum professional and staff members’ interpretations and discussions with visitors are correct, consistent, spoken with authority, and backed with resources and information from the history field. Additionally, museums can and should be active in the community. This can be accomplished with speaking events or traveling exhibits that are taken to schools, libraries, or other community centers.

My educational and interpretive strategies focus on objects. I believe a museum needs objects that are original and authentic. Museums have cut back the amount of material on display to ensure that visitors are not overwhelmed by excessive amounts of objects on display. This trend has continued into the technology age with actual artifacts and objects being substituted with computers and other interactive displays. I believe that these may be beneficial for some people’s education, but they need to be used in appropriate areas and not become the focus of a museum’s exhibits. Technology easily distracts visitors and is a quick solution to ensure that messages and information are available to visitors. This recent trend is a substitution to the underlying problem in museums. Displays are becoming to complex or are not organized in ways that actually relay and teach visitors the information and therefore another medium, technology, is needed.

This leads to a future where it is not impossible to imagine completely online museums that visitors can tour without ever having to leave their houses. My idea for museums in the future is to stress material objects and increase the use and interaction with museum visitors and objects. Future museum patrons will grow up in a technology age and world. They will be unaware of things like typewriters, records, VHS tapes, pens and parchment, and other similar items of the time periods covered by museums. Seeing these items behind museum glass will inform the visitor that these things existed, but leave them wondering why or how they were used. In the future, I want visitors to be able to use and type on typewriters or similar objects. This is only possible if objects continue to remain in museums and curators/educators allow visitors to use and interact with the collection.

Overall, my education philosophy is object oriented with hands on learning. Seeing and reading about objects can only teach a small amount of information. In order to fully understand objects and museums patrons will need the opportunity to interact with objects.

Izzy’s Educational Philosophy

I was raised by school teachers and an artist grandmother who encouraged me to seek to learn and gain knowledge through books, schools and alternative opportunities. When we would travel, my parents would help us to learn and understand the art, architecture and historical sites we were experiencing. Additionally, my grandmother regularly took my siblings to the local Art Museum for their family activity days. To me this was all normal.

I first began to realize this was unusual when in a high school AP Art History course, I realized I was more familiar with the art and methods of interpreting than most of my peers. I excelled at the subject so naturally as I went into college I took several Art History courses mainly out of enjoyment but also in hopes that as an elementary school teacher I someday would be able to use my knowledge of the arts to enhance my students learning. While doing volunteer hours in elementary classrooms I had confirmed to me again and again that the exposure I had to the Arts growing up was not typical. This ignited my passion to pursue professional opportunities to encourage the arts. I believe that the arts are an integral part of any educational experience. My ambition is to provide these opportunities through museum visits and museum outreach programs to a greater number of children who may not have these types of opportunities as readily available to them as I did. These are contributing factors in my desires to use museum galleries as a learning space.

Originally, I come from an elementary education and public-school background, yet many of my same educational philosophies and principles can be applied in a museum setting. There are several Educational theorists who have influenced my teaching methods and styles. The prominent ones being Vygotsky, Piaget, Gardner and Bloom. Vygotsky’s theories contribute two main ideas to my educational philosophy First, that social interactions and community play a role in meaning-making and learning. Second, there is a zone of proximal development. The first is straightforward and has a direct connection to learning in the museum setting. Applying this concept as a museum educator you acknowledge that the museum setting is a learning community that influences the meaning-making and learning. Additionally, you understand that learning is enhanced and becomes more deeply embedded in a person through social interactions and therefore provide opportunities for others to interact during a visit.

Let me explain the second of Vygotsky’s theories, the zone of proximal development. This means that each learner is at a particular point in their intellectual and academic development.  This point for everyone may vary in different subjects, situations, environments, etc. However, wherever they are at in their development for that topic, there is a zone that extends beyond that; a ring of potential learning, growth and development.  As educators, we provide tools and learning experiences within this zone that helps the student or learner to reach beyond their current position, while also being wary of not trying to provide too much information or experiences that will overextend the learner past this point.  Otherwise, this may lead to frustration. Just as if we overextend our arm muscles our bodies may be sore or injured by this, the same principle applies to learning and processing new information and experiences.  What we provide to learners must push them past their current position but still be within reach of where they are currently. Amy Tucker’s writing about Visual Literacy is useful to consider in conjunction with Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development. As an educator you go to where your learner is and then push and help them to go further in applying what they know, acknowledging what they see and then seeing beyond that. Going further than where they were previously.

Piaget’s Theories of cognitive development and constructivist learning are also a large part of my educational philosophy. Piaget’s theory of cognitive development addresses the development of human intelligence and how we gradually acquire construct and use knowledge. A large part of Piaget’s theories is that knowledge and understanding come through interacting with the world. The theories of Vygotsky and Piaget as well as Dewey lend themselves to a constructivist learning approach.  They are also main contributors in an educational philosophy known as emergent curriculum. This educational philosophy encourages the teacher to respond and create learning experiences based on the interest of the children.  It includes active participation, flexible and adaptable learning experiences and an approach of inquiry and curiosity. These theories relate and connect to Guided Interpretation advocated for by Rika Burnahm and Elliot Kai-Kee who emphasize the need to not assign meaning but to allow interpretations to be discovered through the process of interacting with the piece and those around you. Understanding and knowledge is gained by listening to our audience and participating in a conversation with them, providing additional information or knowledge as appropriate.

Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences is another philosophy that I have seen the value of in my educational practice.  The main take away from this theory is that there are multiple modes of learning and multiple intelligences which you may find represented in your students or audience. it is not about limiting individuals to one form of intelligence but instead using multiple modes of thinking learning and expressing oneself. Doing so allows for better engagement and enhanced learning with the experience. One of the modes of learning in Gardner’s Theory is visual-spatial, art museums lend themselves very much to this type of learning which is why they’re so essential in creating a well-rounded education. However, if we limit educational experiences in the museum to just visual-spatial then we will be limiting potential learning experiences. Oftentimes we engage learners in verbal-linguistic learning, but overlook the other potential areas, such as musical-rhythmic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic. Engaging multiple intelligences allows for richer and more rewarding learning experiences whether in a classroom or in the museum setting.

Bloom’s Taxonomy is another method of creating learning experiences which have a greater depth to them. This is done through designing experiences which require higher order thinking skills or a greater cognitive engagement. Oftentimes these are facilitated through questions and inquiry that guides participants in a more complex way. The principles of Aesthetic Scanning by Pat Villeneuve. can be a good interpretive strategy used to produce this level of cognitive depth. Some questions or teaching strategies such as Visual Thinking Strategies are a beginning step that fall on the lower end of cognitive engagement (this is not a bad thing) but as a museum educator it is important to build in and incorporate questions that encourage depth in our learner’s thought processes and engagement. The questions we ask can help to stretch participants to expand their zone of proximal development.

I strive to position myself as a guide in whatever educational setting I may be in. Not as an all-knowing individual, but someone who is familiar with space and can act as a facilitator to optimize the experience.  I view the purpose of an educator in a museum space as serving to enhance the overall experience of the visitors.  Just as a teacher in a school isn’t the keeper of all knowledge neither is the educator in the museum setting. a teacher is an individual who uses the resources available to them as well as their understanding of their students or in this case audience or participants to then create an ideal environment for thoughts to ruminate in the mind, conversations to be had and insight and understanding to be gained about a topic as well as about themselves as an individual.

At this point in time, I am still unsure whether my future career path will be in more of a traditional education setting or will take place in a museum environment.  Regardless, there are common challenges to both. The greatest challenge I foresee in the Museum Field is that my philosophical stances and opinions do not correspond with the traditional institutional practices. I am a big proponent (as can be seen by the educational theories I prescribe to) of creativity and variety in developing programming and activities. I don’t think that all which has been done traditionally in museums is bad. However, I do believe that by pushing boundaries and thinking creatively in developing new approaches to engagement with art will allow more of the next generation of children to engage, interact with and be transformed by their experiences in museum settings. Therefore, the biggest challenge that I foresee is getting push-back by those who are in higher positions of authority which limits my creative and innovative potential. Based on conversations I have had with individuals working at larger institutions, I also am concerned about the channels that would need to be gone through to get approval for anything that I do as an educator in the Museum. I am someone who likes to have freedom to plan and develop and I know that I personally would be frustrated and feel bogged down having to go through several people in order to get things done. Additionally, I know that another challenge in the museum setting is that oftentimes our visitors and participants will be strangers to us so we won’t be able to differentiate our planning to fit individual’s interests and backgrounds. However, we can develop skills that allow us to adapt and alter our questioning strategies and educational practices to best meet the needs of whoever we are helping in that moment.

Hilary’s Educational Philosophy

We can teach an openness to others by teaching through openness. Teaching that knowledge is not standardized and fixed (Kincheloe, 2004) and that divergent perspectives exist (Barrett, 2003) increases students’ ability to be more accepting of multiple possibilities in other areas of life. Thus, my pedagogical practices cater to the individual and use a critical multicultural framework, problematizing power within equitable opportunities (Kraehe & Acuff, 2016). Each individual brings their own knowledge, backgrounds, and preferences to the museum experience (Kai-Kee, 2011). These constructivist and critical teaching methods can teach students to be open to thinking from multiple perspectives. I focus on open-ended interpretations based on inquiry, striving to teach students about tolerance and empathy.

When leading art museum tours, I provide participants with a toolbox they can apply any time they view an artwork or visual culture. I repeat pedagogical strategies, so that viewers notice trends and begin asking for themselves when they view art the scaffolded questions of Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS): 1.) “What is going on in this picture?” 2.) “What do you see that makes you say that?” 3.) “What more can we find?” (Housen, 2014, p. 176). Thus, the learners become active in constructing knowledge and numerous meanings proliferate (Hooper-Greenhill, 1999). Expanding from VTS’s inherent limitations, I weave the visitor’s experience and knowledge with information, through a conversational approach (Kai-Kee, 2011). I incorporate additional modalities, such as kinesthetic learning, mindfulness, and role playing, to appeal to a variety of learners.

The same level of understanding and engagement that can be achieved through tours and programs can also happen through in-gallery interpretation without an educator present. I equally prioritize the “silent pedagogy,” the ninety percent of visitors who “…come on their own and visit the galleries unaccompanied by docents, lecturers, or by group leaders” (Eisner & Dobbs, 1988, p. 7). Aligning with my tour objectives for in-gallery interpretation I aim to: encourage deep looking of the artwork and supply opportunities for visitors to return to observing the artwork; present multiple perspectives and allow visitors to impart their own perspectives; support meaning-making of the artwork; offer accessible and equitable opportunities, regardless of race, ethnicity, age, ability, sexuality, class, or background; and provide tools for empowerment. By providing varied forms of engagement, viewers can utilize free choice to determine which interpretation(s) to use, allowing them to pick which activity suits their interests and needs (Werner-Avidon, Clearwater, & Chan, 2017). As Eisner and Dobbs state, “One reason why works of art for many visitors do not function is that they do not know what to make of what they look at” (1988, p. 8). Educators address this issue by helping visitors reach a deeper understanding and engagement with the artwork and the artwork’s topics.

My teaching framework occurs within a critical multicultural framework by creating an equitable learning space and breaking down boundaries. I use questioning strategies inspired by Melinda Mayer’s culturally responsive practice to consider a pluralistic society and multiple identities (Mayer, 2014). For example, when leading tours through Dublin Arts Council’s exhibition Urur Dhex-Dhexaad Ah: Community In-Between, I facilitated students’ examination of inequities in art, the media, popular culture, and beyond. We deliberated on how the art actively became a tool of empowerment, showcasing Somali-American trailblazers and countering stereotypes (Dublin Arts Council, 2017). While touring one high school group, we discussed examples when one’s voice might be misrepresented or not heard. At first the group struggled with the topic due to my wording. I tried changing my wording from what are times when you felt like your voice wasn’t heard to what are examples in general when people are not represented? The students were suddenly jumping to share. They mentioned examples of lack of representation in toys, politics, and the news. I noticed mostly students of color responded to this question. By “raising awareness of social issues and ‘giving voice’ to the experiences of those on the margins of society,” I worked within a social justice education framework (Kraehe and Acuff, 2013, p. 302). I was happy to give voice to students who feel like their voice might often go unheard. I have come to learn the effect of how changing the nuance in my language can make me into a more critical and culturally responsive educator.

I continually self-reflect on my identity and how that affects my interaction with students. I also fine tune my practice’s goals to align with the goals of the institution, program, and students. I plan to continue to develop my critical practice, as it is an ongoing learning and reflecting process. By consciously integrating lesson plans that consider inequities, I challenge myself to delve into less comfortable topics. I do not always have a prepared answer. Students sometimes bring up issues of which I am unaware. I ask questions and use the students’ knowledge to expand my knowledge, allowing them to teach me. Students can teach me as much as I can teach them.



Barrett, T. (2003). Principles for Interpreting Art. In Interpreting Art: Reflecting, Wondering, and Responding, pp. 197–228. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.

Dublin Arts Council. (2017). Visual Arts Series: Urur Dhex-Dhexaad Ah: Community In-Between. Retrieved March 23, 2018, from

Eisner, E. & Dobbs, S. (1988). Silent Pedagogy: How Museums Help Visitors Experience Exhibitions. Art Education, 41(4): 6-15.

Hooper-Greenhill, E. (1999). Museum Learners as Active Postmodernists: Contextualizing Constructivism. In The Educational Role of the Museum [2nd Ed.] (pp. 67-72). London and New York, NY: Routledge.

Kai-Kee, Elliott. (2011). A Brief History of Teaching in the Art Museum. In R. Burnham & E. Kai-Kee (Eds.) Teaching in the Art Museum: Interpretation as Experience (pp. 19-58). Los Angeles, CA: Getty Publications.

Kincheloe, J. L. (2004). Introduction. Critical Pedagogy Primer (pp. 1-42). Berne and Pieterlen, Switzerland: Peter Lang.

Kraehe, A. M., & Acuff, J. B. (2013). Theoretical considerations for art education research with and about “underserved” populations. Studies in Art Education, 54(4), 294-309.

Mayer, M. (2014). I Cannot Tell a Lie: White Privilege in Museum Education. In Acuff-Boyd, J. & Evans, L. (Eds.) Multiculturalism in Art Museums Today (pp. 299-316). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Werner-Avidon, M., Clearwaters, D., & Chan, D. (2017). Dynamic Moments: Testing High Engagement Visitor Experiences at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. In P. Villeneuve & A. R. Love (Eds.), Visitor-Centered Exhibitions and Edu-Curation in Art Museums (pp. 57-69). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

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,, 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.