Cooperation, collaboration, challenge: how to work with the changing nature of educational audiences in museums
Since the publication of George Hein’s seminal work, Learning in Museums (1998), museums have endeavoured to provide constructivist learning experiences for educational audiences. However, the nature of contemporary educational practice has necessitated that museums develop deeper and more sustained relationships with their audiences which, by doing so, presents many challenges for museums. A key component of this change is the need for ongoing and sustained consultation in an equal, respectful and two-way relationship, where both the audience and the museum are transformed in some way. This represents a major shift for both museums and museum professionals, many of whom have long been used to a one-to-many relationship with their audiences, rather than the many-to-many model currently being championed by a range of museum thinkers.
This chapter considers how these challenges can be met through presenting the groundbreaking work of the Australian Museum, in partnership with Professor Susan Groundwater-Smith and the Coalition of Knowledge Building Schools, who have been working together since 2003 in consulting and collaborating with a range of educational audiences, including both young people and teachers. A key component of this work was the close involvement of Museum staff, who have now taken on board many of the techniques, as well as the mindset developed through this partnership, when consulting with other audiences.