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Program planning in a museum setting : a case study analysis using two planning frameworks McMillan, Christina

Abstract

Many theories, models and approaches to program planning have been proposed over the last fifty years in an effort to articulate the process and provide a framework that will inform practice. As the field of adult education has evolved, it has become apparent that these efforts have not been adequate in their efforts to assist planners with their day-to-day work. This has challenged the field to continue to strive toward the goal of gaining a real understanding of what actually occurs during the planning process. This study was undertaken in response to this ongoing debate, as well as to contribute to the descriptive literature. A case study analysis of the program planning activities associated with one program in a museum setting provided the data for this study. This research endeavoured to uncover the planning process as it was understood by those involved. Sork's program planning framework was employed to analyse and translate planning activities into adult education program planning language. In addition, the data were filtered through both Sork's, and Cervero and Wilson's program planning frameworks to address the further purposes of the research. Specifically, these purposes were to examine whether the analytic framework of Cervero and Wilson accounted for planning in this case and if Sork's analytic framework could serve to assist in understanding the planning process as well as inform planning practice. The research was guided by an interpretive perspective and qualitative methods which are consistent with this perspective. This recognizes that there is inter-relatedness and interdependence between the factors that influence and act on an activity. Interpretive inquiry using qualitative methods is therefore well suited to this study which endeavoured to develop an understanding of how those involved in planning activities understand their work. A total of seven museum staff were interviewed. Of those seven, three were executive staff who provided contextual information and were involved in decision-making that influenced planning activities. The remaining four staff were directly involved in planning activities for the program that was being studied. In addition, the external partner to the overall project was contacted electronically. All interviews were audio-taped, transcribed and analysed. The data confirmed that planning for this particular case is situated within the technical-rational tradition. Sork's framework proved to be a useful template for analysing the planning process. It also provided the means to explore how and to what degree planners conduct their work within the social-political and ethical dimensions of his framework. The data showed that planners' actions were influenced by both the social-political and ethical dimensions, although this was often more intuitive than conscious. In this particular setting, it is unlikely that Sork's framework has utility for directing planning activities without a shift in thinking about the way that planners' work should be conducted. The data confirmed that planners did undertake interest-based negotiations in their work, demonstrating that Cervero and Wilson's analytic framework can account for some of the activities in this planning instance. It was not, however, readily apparent that planners were engaged in negotiation of power relations in this case. This study provides a preliminary analysis of Sork's framework for program planning. It suggests a need for further analysis of this framework across a variety of settings. In addition, this study indicates that while planners are engaged in interest-based negotiation, this activity may not be the central activity of program planners in all settings. Finally, this study highlights the fact that these two frameworks offer a more thorough and comprehensive means for understanding the complex nature of program planning.

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