Pedagogical curation: connecting young children’s learning with art museum curatorial practices

Penfold, Louisa (2019) Pedagogical curation: connecting young children’s learning with art museum curatorial practices. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Young children under the age of five have become an increasingly important audience for art museums around the world with many institutions developing specialised activities, spaces and staff for this age group. However, curatorial practices for this audience differ significantly across the sector; there are diverse perspectives on how art museums can best support children’s learning and thus diverse offers. This thesis aimed to support a well-theorised curatorial practice that is focused on learning.

This thesis explored the research question ‘how can children’s (0-5 years) learning be connected with art museums’ curatorial practices?’ The aim of the enquiry was to construct a critically reflective framework comprised of theoretical and practical resources to support art museum teams developing programmes with and for this audience.

I mobilised a Critical Participatory Action Research methodology to investigate children’s learning and curatorial practices in two art museums in the United Kingdom. The enquiry consisted of two action research cycles: each had a preliminary reconnaissance, gallery activities and analysis. Activity theory was used throughout as a framework for analysing the practice and modifying the critically reflective framework.

Action Research Cycle One, conducted in the early year’s Atelier at The Whitworth Art Gallery, drew heavily on Constructivist learning principles to produce a planning guide, reflection strategies, practice principles and information resources to support the action research team in aligning children’s learning with the gallery practice. Action Research Cycle Two, run in partnership with the Early Years and Family team at Tate, built on these outcomes to investigate how New Materialist critical theory could both expand and connect the critical framework with the learning team’s curatorial practices in the new location. In both art museums, children and their families were also active participants in the gallery activities. Outcomes of the second research cycle were then used to make further modifications to the critically reflective framework. The learning curators and artists from both the Whitworth and Tate brought specialist knowledge from their pre-existing practices with children and families to the enquiry. Working alongside the art museum teams, my role in the action research was as an active participant in the practice.

The research shows that, for children’s learning to be better connected with art museum practices, gallery learning teams benefit from curatorial practices that have clear pedagogical foci. When learning curators and artists actively plan for, facilitate and reflect on children’s learning and their practice, learning and pedagogy become concrete and visible. I have called the critical framework produced by the research ‘pedagogical’ to indicate that it is a curatorial practice that connects art, learning and pedagogy. Through the action research I also have constructed a set of practical resources that can support art museum teams to align their practice with children’s learning. The resources consist of:

• A guide for designing children’s learning environments referred to throughout the thesis as the Guide for Pedagogical Curation (GPC). The GPC supports learning curators and artists to select a learning environment’s material, conceptual, social and spatial components. This selection is done in order to encourage the scaffolding of children’s learning over time

• A set of reflection strategies and methods for connecting children’s learning with art museum practices

• A set of practice principles that underpin the practice

• Information resources including a vocabulary list and case studies of children’s learning environments.

This research makes a contribution to knowledge through the construction of a pedagogical architecture that can be used to curate learning programmes for young children and their families in art museums. By operationalising both Constructivist and New Materialist theory in gallery practice, the research also highlights the significance of designing creative spaces that take into account the material, spatial, social and conceptual components of learning environments. The outcomes of the research have direct benefits for the practice of learning curators, artists and educators working with children in both art museums and beyond.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Thomson, Pat L.
Pringle, Emily
Keywords: Early Childhood Education, Art Education, Museum Education, Learning, Pedagogy, Constructivism, New Materialism, Action Research, Activity Theory
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1101 Child study. Preschool education
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Education
Item ID: 59443
Depositing User: Penfold, Louisa
Date Deposited: 12 Feb 2020 08:44
Last Modified: 06 May 2020 11:04

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