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Exhibitions as active learning experiences

Museums and exhibitions are fantastic tools for learning, and all people, both young and old, should have access to them. The hope is for art, history, science, literature, geography and other subjects to shine through exhibitions and cultural events.

Key spaces such as museums and exhibitions are vital for informal learning. They offer untapped potential for communicating social, cultural and scientific information, correcting misconceptions, and improving attitudes and cognitive skills. They can inspire creativity and celebrate different perspectives. However, too frequently this learning is passive, overly relying on the curator’s path and the individual’s connection.

Traditional methods of simply walking through a museum can be uninspiring and isolate those who do not feel a particular connection with the exhibit, or those who lack sufficient understanding and prior knowledge.

Museums must advance and become spaces of active learning – with multiple sensory, cognitive, emotional and social connections – to provide a meaningful experience for everyone. Learners’ attention span wanes after a spell, especially if the learning is passive, but active learning maintains a high level of engagement. Student participation in collaborative tasks, or tangible contact with real-life artefacts, can lead to a deeper connection to the subject.

For active learning to be well executed, teachers must have the competence and access to tools to incorporate exhibition visits into the learning design. Understanding how exhibiting work is achieved can give teachers more confidence in working with museums, galleries and creators. Students can explore this process by creating their own guided tours, treasure hunts, mock interviews, digital media projects, articles, and more.

Partners from five EU countries are collaborating on an Erasmus+ project to maximise the potential of exhibitions as a pedagogical tool.

The project VX Designers will develop a methodology, training materials, and a platform to share knowledge and best practices. It will enable active learning through a guide demonstrating how to make students co-creators of their own exhibits, while developing their technical skills and critical thinking. A major goal of this project is to ensure inclusive education: it will therefore be developed in diverse social, economic and cultural backgrounds.

Museums and exhibitions are fantastic tools for learning, and all people, both young and old, should have access to them. The hope is for art, history, science, literature, geography and other subjects to shine through exhibitions and cultural events.

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