Exploring the potential of museum multiple-visit programs

Witmer, S., Luke, J. & Adams, M. (2000). Exploring the potential of museum multiple-visit programs. Art Education, 53(5). pp. 46 – 52.

Abstract:

This study examines the impact for middle school students of the National Gallery of Art’s Art Around the Corner program, an educational program in which students make multiple visits to the museum. Multiple museum visit programs are time-consuming and costly to museum education departments and reach fewer students. While anecdotally museum educators might agree that a multiple-visit program offers more benefits, little actual research has been conducted on the effectiveness of these programs. In this study, researchers found that students who participated in the Art Around the Corner program had more positive attitudes toward art and art museums and demonstrated a greater ability to respond to and discuss works of art than comparison students who did not participate in the program.

Key Findings:

Compared with students who did not receive the program, students who participated in the National Gallery of Art’s multiple visit museum education program:
  • had a greater ability to respond to and discuss works of art.
  • had more positive attitudes towards art and art museums.

Significance of the Findings:

These findings provide evidence to support what museum educators and some classroom teachers believed to be true – that multiple-visit museum programs offer valuable benefits to students. The findings are significant because multiple visit programs require more resources while reaching fewer students so data to support their impact is useful in supporting continued development of such programs.

Methodology:

Participants in Art Around the Corner visited the museum seven times over the course of a school year and docents from the museum visited students in their classroom twice a year. All students in the program were fifth- and sixth-graders from the District of Columbia. At the museum students participated in small group, inquiry-based lessons that integrated with the school curriculum. In addition to artwork based discussion, students completed in-gallery writing assignments and studio projects. In this case study, researchers compared the written and oral responses to a work of art from middle school students who had participated in Art Around the Corner for one to three years with responses of students from the same school who had not participated in the program. Researchers also interviewed students who had participated in the program and those who had not, to determine their attitudes towards visiting art museums. Teachers and principals were also interviewed regarding the benefits they perceived for students of the multiple-visit program.

Limitations of the Research:

It was not clear how many students participated in the study or exactly how the researchers analyzed the data from the students’ written responses or interviews. The study might have been strengthened by including in its comparison, not only students who participated in a multiple-visit museum education program and students who did not participate in that program, but also students who participated in a single-visit museum education program.

Questions to Guide New Research:

If students have stronger literacy skills in term of writing and talking about art after participation in a multiple-visit program, how do those skills improve over years of participation in the program? How could the goals of the program shift to accommodate the development of more sophisticated skills in students who have been participating in the program longer? A longitudinal study looking at the development of skills could be useful.