Enabling learning for art gallery visitors

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Emily Pringle

Audiences need to feel safe to have their ideas disrupted if they are to learn in an art gallery.

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About two years ago I embarked on a study, with colleagues from Kings College University in London to examine in detail how certain senior Learning staff at Tate Gallery in London understand and define ‘learning’. The research looked at their perceptions of what contexts, conditions, structures and processes need to be in place for learning to take place and finally their views on why they think learning is important.

What we found was that members of the team see learning was as a holistic process of change or transformation.  One person, for example described it ‘as movement from one point to another, on any of a number of levels – social, emotional, intellectual, physical, spiritual’.  Generally the team saw learning is dynamic and developmental and to do with more than the intellectual.  All of which suggests that the outcomes of the process go beyond acquiring knowledge.  Learning is not just about knowing more stuff; instead, they thought that learning in the gallery brings about change within an individual as well as the formation of new/expanded connections with artworks. 

About the author

Head of Learning Practice and Research at Tate.