The relevance of LXD in museums and learning centres
The only global organisation in the museum field is The International Council of Museums (ICOM). ICOM establishes, and advises on professional and ethical standards for museum activities, including education, or “communication to society of the world’s natural and cultural heritage, present and future, tangible and intangible". As such, we found publications issued or edited by ICOM, particularly their International Committee for Education and Cultural Action (ICOM CECA) to be of relevance for our inquiry into learning experience design in museums, and museums as a learning arena.
ICOM publications are international, not European. But European institutions are heavily represented throughout the organisation, with strategies, challenges, and recommendations applicable for museum-based learning centres in Europe too. The reviewed documents include reports from conferences, handbooks, and tool kits, as well as the most current strategy document of ICOM.
As such, for the museum sector, the following documents and websites have been selected and reviewed:
ICOM Strategic Plan 2016-2022.
Running a Museum: A practical handbook, ICOM, 2004.
Education Toolkit: Methods and techniques from museums and heritage education (2017), Arja van Veldhuizen, ICOM CECA.
“Lifelong learning in European museums”, Conclusions of the European Museum Forum Workshop (2004), CoE.
Old Questions, New Answers: Quality criteria for museum education.
Best practice 8: A tool to improve museum education internationally.
ICOM Education 28: Cultural Action, Chapter “A museum in service of society: How museums can develop democracy as a way of life for citizens of today and the future”, pp. 177-194
Our review underlines that museums are places of learning with very high potential. The recognition of this potential is increasing for all audiences. This is not lost on the museum sector itself, as it is showing will, capacity, and openness to take on board input from other institutions, fields, and their audiences themselves, with evaluation and feedback loops being a frequently used mechanism. This applies also to the design of learning experiences, to which a lot of attention is already given within the sector itself. Although there is no mention of the specific concept ‘learning experience design’ as such, many of the central features of this approach are already present in the museum sector, not least through the basic principles for designing educational programmes, as listed in Running a Museum: A Practical Handbook.
Although there is no mention of the specific concept ‘learning experience design’ as such, many of the central features of this approach are already present in the museum sector, not least through the basic principles for designing educational programmes(...)
There is a keen awareness of the need for a learner-centred approach in museums, with many institutions striving towards ever-more active engagement of their audiences, more interaction, and dialogue both before and after taking part in either exhibition or other learning programmes of a museum.
The field is demonstrably far from static, with more digital platforms being implemented, and community outreach programmes being tested. Generally speaking, there seems to be growing confidence in museums themselves regarding their societal role and responsibility; That they are uniquely placed to improve society in a different way than schools or youth centres. The design processes referred to in our review underscore and reflect that connection to the community, and the roots that a museum both guards and challenges.
The field is demonstrably far from static, with more digital platforms being implemented, and community outreach programmes being tested.
The sector challenges itself to increase the professionalism and competence in all parts, including museum educators, not least to be better able to accommodate different learning styles of different audiences. Training of staff is identified specifically as one useful means towards that end.
Given the objectives of our project, the conceptualisation of ‘learning experience design’ and our focus on the design process as conducted by educational staff, we find that our connection with the museum sector is highly relevant. The concept of LXD is not mentioned specifically anywhere. But some of the key elements of this approach to design thinking of learning experiences are already in place in the museum sector, including the important feedback loop and testing of learning practices. Many museums are a bit different from other learning arenas in that they often have physical objects that require professional conservation and curation. In one sense, this could be limiting for their use in a learning practice, or at least for the way museums tend to think about learning and education. Practices similar to LXD are a part of museum design as it is. But LXD still offers a complementary approach to the design of learning or educational programmes museums can offer as a supplement to their exhibitions, especially to groups.
This article is included in our project research report "Learning experience design in the school system, youth sector, and museum field", written in February 2020. Check more information here, and download the full report here.