Museum as Learning Laboratory: Developing and using a practical theory of informal learning; and Bringing research and practice together
In these articles, we argue that museums, particularly children’s museums, are well positioned to become unique learning laboratories. Laboratories that would not only produce research about why museums are important educational and cultural institutions, but that would also be the site for new discoveries in the basic science of how children learn. This two part series describes a new model of collaborative research and practice for children’s museums. The first of the two articles considers what it would mean for museums to be learning laboratories. We describe our partnership with the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and make the argument that the field of museum research needs to develop and use a practical theory of informal learning. The second article discusses some findings of our research and evaluation work with the Children’s Museum. Together, the two articles provide a case of what it might mean to have a sustained, in-depth program of research and practice in the context of a partnership between a museum and university researchers.