Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

MA Museum Professions


Communication and the Arts


Margaret A. Wastie


Learning theory, Formal history education, Informal history education, Museums


The transition of museums from institutions for the knowledgeable to places for those seeking knowledge has brought about a need for those educating in museums to better understand the ways in which people learn. This paper introduces and explains theories, psychological and educational, that are applicable to learning such as Constructivism, Multiple Intelligences, and the Contextual Model of Learning. Observations of informal and formal history and social studies lessons or programs presented to students ages 3-16 provide the framework for understanding how well these theories of learning are being implemented in the museum. Comparison of history museum programs (informal education) with social studies school lessons (formal education) has demonstrated that both are succeeding as learning institutions, however the informal educational programs often have the ability to reach a more diverse audience of learners than formal educational programs do. If the goal of museums and schools is to educate each student/visitor equally then the future seems clear-museums and schools must work together to understand the strengths and restrictions each has to ultimately ensure that no child is left behind.