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The Promise of Informal Learning


This syllabus represents the course as it was taught in the fall of 2015. AMST 2696 (the Spring 2023 course) will be similar but focused more squarely on the philosophy and methods of museum education. We will not travel as widely but hope to meet frequently at the RISD Museum as well as nearby institutions such as the John Brown House Museum and the Providence Children's Museum. The updated syllabus will be posted soon and will include updates to readings and locations as well as statements on accessibility, accommodations, mental health, supply expenses, inclusion, diversity, and the academic code. The course has no prerequisites. This course will take as its focus “facilitated informal learning” – learning that happens outside of formal learning environments but is facilitated by an educator. Specifically, much of the course will explore facilitated informal learning within cultural institutions – museums, historic houses, zoos, libraries, science centers, children’s museums. We will begin with our own experiences with facilitated informal learning – whether that be a tour of a museum as a child or an ipad app exploration of a historic home only days ago. We will then zoom out in order to “think big” with big thinkers in the field: What are their visions for the future of informal learning? What are ours? Through the rest of the sessions, we will explore the pedagogical methods, underlying philosophies and learning theories, audiences, debates, and goals of facilitated informal learning today. Ultimately, we will consider whether and how these models should and could be re-considered and re-designed to reflect “the promise of cultural institutions” (David Carr). Class sessions will consist of discussions of readings as well as facilitated experiences in Providence cultural institutions – the RISD Museum, a historic home, the Providence Children’s Museum, New Urban Arts, and possibly a science center or library – and opportunities for students to practice the most common pedagogical methods in the field. Assignments will include two blog posts or reflections (ideally based on attendance at two outside-of-class events), a teaching practicum, and one final project in which students will collaborate with a Providence organization to assess their needs and design and deliver educational programming. There are no prerequisites for this course.

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Delamatre, Jackie, "The Promise of Informal Learning" (2023). John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage Syllabi. Brown Digital Repository. Brown University Library.