Saturday, May 10, 2008

Learning vs education vs entertainment??

This question popped up from Ken at lunch yesterday: What are visitors seeking from cultural attractions in terms of education and/or entertaining experiences? Can these co-exist?

Well Ken, since you don't want to read my thesis online, or even Chapter 7 which answers these questions I will summarise it for you here. Watch out for a future edition of Curator where these findings will be published in more detail.

When comparing the concepts of learning, education and entertainment four differences emerged:

  • the general language used to explain each concept differed, with more active words used to talk about learning, such as discovering, exploring, applying and experiencing and participants describing education in more concrete ways
  • previous research established that people had generally negative views of education as a passive process over which they had no control, yet in my study negative views of education expressed emanated from a perceived lack of choice
  • although there were differences in the language used to describe these concepts, there was still an appreciation of the role that education played in both acquiring facts and information, and in delivering learning, and unlike some of the studies reviewed in the literature, education was not seen as necessarily negative, just different
  • in contrast to learning and education, descriptions of entertainment included words and phrases that were based on feelings and emotions.

I suggested that the museum environment allows the concepts of learning, education and entertainment to closely overlap in positive ways as shown in the diagram below. Overall I concluded that learning, entertainment and education are not competing concepts or opposites — they are complementary. Museums should not be concerned about their entertainment value and role, as results indicated that adult visitors felt that entertainment added to learning, not detracted from it, and overall, museums should promote themselves as places for enjoyable and entertaining learning experiences.

The relationship between learning, education and entertainment

1 comment:

Barbara Palley said...

Thanks for your post about this. Often we set things up as polarities (entertainment and education) that often are not. I've read a study, I believe by John Falk a few years ago (I'll find a citation later) where they asked visitors to rate how much their visit to the museum had an entertainment motivation (hi/lo) and an education motivation (hi/lo). Those visitors that rated their education AND entertainment levels high were more likely to have lasting learning from their museum visits, than those that had only high motivation in education or in entertainment. The point being, for many visitors, museums are seen as educational and as entertaining. Part of their love of museums is that to them, learning in a museum is fun. Not either or.