Learning research agenda

Visitor studies Museum specimen in the galleries

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Visitor Research and Evaluation
The Natural History Museum
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Between 2013 and 2015, we worked with King's College London and Bristol University to develop a collaborative learning research agenda for UK natural history museums.

The agenda was launched at a conference held at the Natural History Museum on 21 January 2016. Download the Learning Research Agenda (931 KB).

Learning research seminars

During a series of six seminars sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), museum learning practitioners and cross-disciplinary academic researchers came together to examine the complexities of learning in rich natural history environments. 

Through the seminars we identified and discussed problems of practice, collected examples of extant research and practice, identified relevant academic disciplines and theory that could potentially be relevant to practice, collaborated on joint research projects, and discussed ideas about how an agenda could help to bring together research and practice and guide the field into the twenty-first century.

The process of conversations, meetings and exploration by researchers and practitioners has led to a research agenda structured around a conceptual map of learning in natural history institutions, ongoing conversations about the problems of practice in the field, and example research questions.

Objectives of the seminar series

  • develop a network of academics and natural history museum learning stakeholders.
  • promote the potential contribution of natural history museums to academic learning research and theory.
  • develop a tailored learning research agenda to be reflected in both professional and academic publications.
  • create a solid base agenda for future research bids.
  • demonstrate what natural history museums can offer as academic research sites for out of classroom learning.
  • support collaboration between academics, natural history museums and UK funding agencies.
  • foster international collaboration with overseas researchers and stakeholders.

Conference presentations

The following presentations were delivered at the conference:

1. The importance of research to practice (Amito Haarhuis, Deputy Director at NEMO Science Centre). Watch on YouTube

2. A learning research agenda for natural history institutions:

a. the process (Dr Jen DeWitt, King’s College London). Watch on YouTube
b. and product (Prof Justin Dillon, University of Bristol). Watch on YouTube

3. A learning research agenda for natural history institutions - implications for practice at the Natural History Museum, London (Emma Pegram, Learning Research and Evaluation Manager, Natural History Museum). Watch on YouTube

4. Expertise/Content/Collections: Natural history – more relevant now than ever! (Dr Marianne Achiam, University of Copenhagen). Watch on YouTube

5. Facilitation: Reflecting on facilitation for the future (Dr Heather King, King's College London). Watch on YouTube

6. Audiences: Dancing with Natural History (Dr Emily Dawson, University College London). Watch on YouTube

7. Leveraging Research and Practice: An Agenda for Addressing Wicked Problems and the Twenty-First-Century Natural Museum or It’s not about what it used to be about and we can’t just do it for ourselves anymore (Prof Kevin Crowley, University of Pittsburgh). Watch on YouTube