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Learning Theories: Applied

by Rebecca Martin on

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to teach people to apply different learning theories to the tours they lead.  Constructivism, the idea (dreadfully oversimplified) that we build our understanding based on our previous experience and knowledge, seems pretty easy for new docents to grasp and to incorporate into their thinking.

And we’ve had some good discussions about Maslow’s hierarchy.  Again, it makes sense to new guides that people have trouble paying attention to content if they’re desperate for a bathroom or if the guide keeps getting lost.  Visitors will be interested and connected to the material if they feel that the tour guide is respects and likes them.

maslow for inkwell blog

An old article from The Docent Educator called “Questions? Questions! A Structure for Teaching” does a nice job of applying Blooms Taxonomy to developing questions during tours.  (Click here to see the article.)

Learning Theory Wordle

But docents-in-training have a really hard time using presentation styles that suit different learning styles.  During a recent session, new guides divided into small groups based on their own learning styles.  Then they worked together to present an exhibition object or document in a way that they thought would suit other people who are kinesthetic learners, logical/mathematical learners, etc.

What do you think happened?

As you might guess, it was really hard for the docents to move out of their comfort zone.  Even though they recognize (thanks to a learning styles assessment) that they have strong preferences for non-verbal learning, they associate tours with linguistic learning.  In every case, the presenters gave excellent presentations using linguistic teaching techniques.

So what’s next?  Do we give up?  Not at all.  We’re going to keep practicing.  I’m hoping to inspire docents with examples from Thomas Armstrong’s Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom. We’ll watch some Schoolhouse Rock segments and try to apply to tours the teaching methods they demonstrate.  Today, I’ll model using the theory of multiple intelligences by using it to structure my assessment of their content knowledge.

Do you have any other ideas?  What works for you?  How do you incorporate the theory of multiple intelligences into your tours?  How do you teach guides to do the same?

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