An examination of the experiences of university students in their university art museum through dialogue and peer learning
Dicindio, Carissa Maria
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This qualitative case study focuses on the experiences of student docents and non-art majors visiting their university art museum together. Through a hermeneutic phenomenological methodology, it was constructed to understand how these students built meaning through dialogue with each other and with the works of art and how they learned from each other as peers. It also considers how this museum visit potentially changes the perceptions of both the student docent and the museum partner through their experiences together. Studies specifically focusing on university students’ experiences in museums are minimal, and as museum educators move forward with programs and exhibitions designed to reach this audience, it becomes critical to understand how students perceive their time in museums. Working with student docents in the inaugural year of a new student docent program and their museum partners, non-art majors with whom they chose to visit the museum, this study used recorded dialogue of the gallery visits, interviews, and concept maps to better understand how these students interacted with each other and with the works in the museum. It also considers how these visits can result in transformative experiences for both the student docents and their museum partners. The goal of this study is to create pathways through which university students can connect with works of art through dialogue and peer learning in hope that this research will help university museums rethink how their students can utilize the museum for experience, understanding, and learning opportunities. I discuss not only the important role of the student docents in the engagement of the non-art majors in the galleries, but also how the non-art majors contributed to the student docents’ experiences. In this study, I demonstrate the need to create opportunities such as this one for more students during a time when they are shaping their independent identities so that they can understand the intrinsic benefits that will make them want to return to the museum and make it part of their lives. I also stress the importance of providing spaces for students to interact with art that is both private and special.