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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Inside the docent experience: a case study of docents-in-training Lees, Katharine Isabel


The concept of education in museums and galleries is undergoing examination and change. The role and training of those who comprise the public face of the educative experience in these environments - the guide, docent, interpreter - should also be examined. This is a ethnographic case study of a volunteer docent training program at a large civic art gallery. The study is based on following six participants through nine months of training to present the gallery's K-7 school program. The school program was based on works by Emily Carr, temporarily joined by paintings of Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun. Interviews and observation were used to collect data; active journal keeping was encouraged. The participants' motivation, challenges, reflective practice and issues are analyzed. Personal goals are contrasted with the goals of the gallery's school program and a dissonance between them is found. The volunteer nature of the participants' position is recognized as an element contributing to the findings of the study. The designation of the novice docent as "teacher" is examined; the analogy of the novice docent as "visitor" is recommended. The concept of learning in museums as "personal empowerment" is found to have implications for the training of the docent or guide. The study also recommends using models of active learning, such as reflective practice, to train docents or guides.

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