University of Cambridge Museums

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Take One ITE Cultural Placement Programme

take_one_rgb_logo_1[1]‘A whole load of learning just from one thing’:

Reflections on The National Gallery, Fitzwilliam Museum and University of Cambridge Take One ITE Cultural Placement Programme

In December 2013, 10 PGCE students from the Faculty of Education took part in a split site placement between the National Gallery and the Fitzwilliam Museum learning about creative, cross-curricular teaching approaches in museums and galleries as part of the Take One Project. The teacher trainees were mentored by Educators from The National Gallery and the Fitzwilliam Museum and they observed a range of different teaching sessions at both venues, as well as taking part in activities and workshops themselves.


The project aimed to:

  • Encourage trainees to work with museum collections in their own practice, with an emphasis on old master paintings.
  • Inspire creative and cross-curricular approaches to teaching and learning through dialogic learning, open questioning and child led enquiry.

By the end of the week, 7 of the 10 students mentioned that their confidence teaching in galleries had increased. Half of the students reported that their confidence in teaching in general had improved, and many described that they had both learned practical teaching strategies, and improved their knowledge and appreciation of art. Student comments reflecting on the week reveal many of the ways they had benefitted from the programme:

I am more secure in how to plan and teach cross-curricular activities based on these paintings and objects.

My knowledge of art has increased dramatically and I am so much more confident to engage with the paintings and share my interpretations. I am also much more confident about leading the gallery session – this week has made me less fearful and more excited. I also think my questioning skills have developed which will be helpful in the classroom.

I think I am more open in my teaching style – something I will continue to develop as I reflect on the week. I also can’t wait to bring my class into the museum. I want to share ideas developed this week with them.

It will have a HUGE impact! It has challenged me to be creative in the way I use objects in the classroom, and to see how many areas of the curriculum can be taught in a way that is engaging and meaningful for children.

As part of their placement the students selected a painting at the Fitzwilliam around which to plan a scheme of work. The paintings they chose were Monet’s Springtime and Del Sellaio’s Cupid and Psyche.

Find the Object 1In the first half of the Spring Term the students returned to the museum with their teaching placement classes to try out their new teaching approaches. After these visits, the college tutor, class teacher and members of the public commented on the outstanding quality of the teaching session after observing the trainee working in the gallery. The success of the gallery sessions were in turn reflected in excellent outcomes back at school where the student teachers led a scheme of work based around the visit as this feedback from one of the teacher mentors shows

By the end of the project the children were talking about Monet as if they knew him personally. Lots of them wanted to visit the Museum again with parents as a result of the visit.

The Fitzwilliam plans to host a celebratory exhibition of the work of produced by the classes involved in Summer 2014.

We also asked the students to reflect on the effect of the project three months later as they completed their school based teaching placement. Their responses show that the aims of the project were met and that the trainees were inspired to think about teaching and learning outside the classroom. It also reveals how they had incorporated some of the approaches and strategies they learnt to extend and enhance their day to day teaching practice.

Working in a museum setting really opened my eyes to how learning outside the classroom can break down many barriers for learning which many children experience in the classroom, creating a much more inclusive learning environment.

I feel I am more creative on making things cross-curricular, strive for children to collaborate more, strive for the children to learn in a more active/ experiential/participatory way.

At the beginning of the initiative, I was quite apprehensive about whether or not I would be able to teach in the social constructivist/ dialogic way of museum education. After completing the initiative however, I not only feel much more confident in this style of teaching, but am also a firm believer in the benefits of using dialogic skills: in both the museum and the classroom. The use of open-ended questions to elicit ideas, extend thoughts and sequence and collaborate several pupils’ opinions can be a powerful learning tool for both the pupils and the teacher.

The remaining 160 Primary PGCE students from the Faculty will visit the Fitzwilliam and other University of Cambridge Museums for 2 days in June to learn more about teaching and learning in collections.

With thanks to Ben Street and the Education teams at The National Gallery and the Fitzwilliam Museum and to Philip Stephenson from The Faculty of Education.

Kate Noble, Education Officer, Fitzwilliam Museum

One comment on “Take One ITE Cultural Placement Programme

  1. Pingback: A lifetime devoted to Learning Outside the Classroom | University of Cambridge Museums

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This entry was posted on May 2, 2014 by in Learning Spaces, News and tagged , , , .

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