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Museum Visits and Learning Strategies

Subject: Bachelor of Textile design, handicraft and communication. Course: Museum and communication. Study level: BA. Class size: approximately number of students 10-40.

Motivation for the activity

Museums of the 21st century are more than objects displayed in rooms. Many museums see themselves as services to communities and reach out as spaces of experience and learning. They provide guiding and online resources that may enhance learning also at university level.

Museums seen as a learning resource for authentic learning have many potentials. Museum objects can provide real world authenticity to abstract learning on culture and science by exhibiting concrete objects. On the other hand you may critically question this authenticity as a carefully curated narrative. The larger museums are scientific institutions and as a learner you will see the results of disciplined habits of thinking are displayed in the exhibitions. And as learning spaces museums exhibition are diverse and embodied experiences where you hear, and see, and talk and walk and bend and turn and smell and touch. You are offered possibilities for a personal learning experience where you create knowledge that is meaningful to yourself.

Central learning outcomes for the course

  • To design, plan and produce textile designs and products
  • To preserve, develop og communicate textile crafts and cultural traditions.

Central learning outcomes for the activity

Often the student’s visit to a museum is an isolated phenomena not connected to the student’s learning. The activity helps the students to see a museum as a learning resource for collective or individual projects. It helps the students to link the learning outcomes of the museum visits to their individual learning.

Description of the activity

The student can use a museum as a resource for her or his learning in relation to a specific project. In this activity the teacher explicitly plan the learning trajectory of the students as three distinct stages: 1. Feedforward and preparation in class, 2. The museum visit, 3. Feedback in class that becomes a  new feedforward.

Stage 1: 

Feedforward and preparation of the museum visit 


Stage 2:

At the museum - where the teacher may or may not be present


Stage 3:

Feedback in class - preparation for a new feedforward


In class the students prepare one of following activities:

While being at the museum the students should:

  • Solve your prepared activity or answer your questions from stage 1.

  • Be aware both of their cognitive and emotional reactions to the exhibition as indicators for their learning.

  • Use a device (phone, tablet) to take picture and record sound bites from the exhibition

  • Sketch and take notes in notebooks from the exhibition.

Back in the classroom the students:

  • Read and organize his og her different types of notes.

  • Link the new knowledge to his or her project

  • Present the results in a coherent way.

  • Reflect on the value of adding authentic objects to the project.                                                                    

Outcome of the activity

The aim is that the students take ownership and see a museum as a learning resource for collective or individual projects. If they feel empowered: they know how to critically analyze an object and a museum exhibition, and they are prepared to work with their emotional embodied experiences, including museums fatigue, they are well prepared to use a museums as part of their learning.

I have noticed deeper understanding and deeper knowledge when students work with different representations of a subject or a theme. The museums may offer students tangible, three dimensional aspects to their studies that they do not find anywhere else.

Reflections on the activity

My experience is that the main issue happen when the teacher do not offer students strategies for maintaining the cognitive and emotional input they get at a museum. The museum visit may just be a lost opportunity for an depth learning. There is a waste difference between text based learning in class and embodied object based learning in a museum. A museum visit is a momentary learning resource that you cannot easily return to like a quotation in a book. The learning outcome of the student depends on how well the student manage to link the two learning environments.

Activity Materials

Download materials to stage 1 of the activity:



Margit Eva Jensen, lektor UCC, ph.d.-stipendiat, Aarhus Universitet.