This was a timely question for me as I’ve been thinking about the GLO’s recently. (For readers outside the UK, these mysterious acronyms and where they come from are explained here: http://www.inspiringlearningforall.gov.uk/default.aspx?flash=true ). Peta’s question leads me to lots more of my own, although I’m not sure I’ve answered her question which is why I’ve only posted this on my blog and not replied to the GEM list:
Do you need to know the curators’ predicted outcomes to evaluate an exhibition’s effectiveness? Can you not start an evaluation by asking the learner’s (or teacher’s) desired outcomes?
What if the organiser’s predictions were flawed or incomplete?
What if they intended only to achieve one of the GLO’s, for example ‘Enjoyment, Inspiration, Creativity’, believing that this is the best way to encourage further learning?
Do exhibitions that are designed for learning always provide better learning experiences than exhibitions designed for confusion or beauty?
An experience of an exhibition, especially one that tours, varies according to many factors beyond its original design. Learning in exhibitions happens not just through the contents, but also through any extra mediation and dialogue that is brought to it, and the dispositions of the visitors. Evaluation should be learner-centred, focused on understanding how visitors have changed through their whole experience, including unpredictable outcomes. Evaluation exercises are about control and improvement. If you can’t control the design of the exhibition you need to use the evaluation to inform other aspects that you can apply in future. If a touring exhibition seems to have been planned without much consideration for any of the GLO’s except ‘knowledge’ and perhaps ‘skills’ then rather than turn down what might have fascinating objects or potential for interpretation, you could ask what you need to add to draw the other GLO’s out.
ILFA is useful as an advocacy tool because it acknowledges that museum learning is not just about ‘information transfer’ but about experiences that create change in people, allow them to brush against new ideas or practices, and develop a disposition towards curiosity and critical thinking. This change is best achieved through experiences that promote ‘enjoyment, inspiration, creativity’ (GLO4). The good thing about the GLOs, that they include recognition of the soft elements (creativity, values, progression), is also its problem when it comes to be used systematically. A GLO-based evaluation includes both looking for the dispositions for gaining skills and knowledge (catalysts for learning), and looking for the things that can be known or done through a museum learning experience (outcomes). It is true that dispositions such as ‘inspiration’ can linger or be recalled and applied again to future learning, so they are outcomes too. This mix of catalysts and ‘knowings’ would not be so problematic if each GLO were more clearly defined.
The GLO’s are overlapping, with each containing diverse elements. For example, the GLO2 ‘Skills’ can include thinking, crafting, playing and so on, overlapping with the GLO’s that include creativity, knowledge and action. The GLO1 ‘knowledge and understanding’ could be defined as simple factual input or it could be seen more broadly as building patterns of meaning and forming personal interpretations, which is the same as GLO3 ‘Values and Attitudes’.
So, more questions: Is the GLO system adaptable? Might the GLO’s be better categorised in ways that relate better to the learning process? Is it still possible to measure museum learning if you focus on the qualities of your offer rather than mixing this with testing what people have learned? This is my first attempt to think of an alternative set of GLO’s that preserves the basic value of the ILFA system:
- Do we make visitors feel comfortable and welcome, ready for a challenge?
- Is there content that is relaxing, pleasing, beautiful, funny…?
Inspiring visitors to gain knowledge:
- Do the exhibits stimulate curiosity (questions, mysteries)?
- Is the narrative engaging? Or, is the information coherent?
Active and kinaesthetic learning:
- Do the exhibits provide opportunities for visitors to touch and make things, to listen, and perhaps use taste and smell?
- Is there a chance to develop skills as well as gain facts?
- Are there opportunities to experiment and invent new things, and think from different angles?
- Is this creativity modelled in the making of the exhibition and the nature of its contents?
- Is the exhibition accessible for visitors with learning, sensory or physical disabilities?
- Do the exhibits broaden people’s horizons (into the past, the future, the wider world, into ethics, into other minds, into other disciplines, technologies and complex systems)?
- Do we help them make sense of this complexity?
- Have we shown some questions that still need answering?
- Are there ‘calls to action’ for future learning or practice?
- Have we provided resources for future learning?
No, not really. These are the most important subjects, no contest. They cover the three things we need: to deal with the visual world, to think analytically and experimentally, to access information and communicate. My ideal curriculum takes for granted these essentials and therefore integrates them into authentic enquiries, based on human needs. Really it is based on the two disciplines missing by name from the English National Curriculum; anthropology and environmental studies. Without understanding global cultures or the environment we fail to embrace the most compelling problems of our time.
The starting points of learning: The Cultural realm
- My story (myself understood as story)
- My language (how I grow through communication with others)
- How I imagine the world (fantasy, invention)
- How I begin to make sense of the complex world, in the many groups and situations that I live in (copying others, knowledge)
- How I must behave
Growing towards: The Cultural Realm
- Global complexity & diversity
- Systems of exchange (trade, language etc)
- How humans represent the world and their understanding of it
- How representations differ between us
- What we preserve from past knowledge, what is valuable – How can I make new representations that help me & others understand the world?
- What is good? How must we behave in the future?
The starting points of learning: The Natural realm
- How my body works – ‘Myself and other animals’
- How my body can be better (PE, food, health)
- How I can make new things, mend things and build the world (craft, design etc)
- How I enjoy being in the world (dance, music)
Growing towards: The Natural Realm
- How humans use and change the natural world (geography etc)
- Concepts for understanding the mechanisms and fabric of the world (maths, physics, chemistry etc)
- The world beyond and before culture (prehistory, animals)
- The universe beyond this world (astronomy)
- How can we improve the way we live to survive changes in the environment?
Essential for exploring these realms are abilities to:
•Investigate (question, experiment, seek knowledge)
•Record and model (using words, images, numbers, technologies)
•Dialogue (challenge, debate, interrogate, collaborate)
•Narrate (express, engage, characterise, connote)