Dallas Museum of Art Docent Teaching Practices Evaluation Report

November 4th, 2009 | EVALUATION

The Dallas Museum of Art's (DMA) Teaching Programs staff desires to learn more about the student experience occurring in the galleries during one-hour docent-guided tours. The focus of the present implementation evaluation is on the docents' role in facilitating the student experience. Before developing a summative study focused on the impact of tours on students, it was important to understand how the tours were being implemented and to what degree and in what ways they met the standards articulated by the DMA's Education Division. The strong partnership between the practitioner (Molly Kysar, Head of Teaching Programs) and internal evaluator (Sharisse Butler) was an important aspect of this evaluation. Docents were also given a strong voice in the evaluation process. Evaluation planning began in January 2008 with writing a program goal and objectives which are based in the Museum's teaching philosophy that prioritizes close and careful looking, experiencing wonder, making personal connections to works of art, and accommodating diverse learning styles. A parallel set of objectives were written for the implementation of tours. During the 2008-2009 school year, 53 docents were observed giving the same tour, the DMA 4th-grade tour called Looking Journey, a flexible tour that specifically emphasizes close looking. Findings revealed that many desired docent teaching behaviors were more likely to occur if the tour had less than 7 stops or works of art. While docents encouraged close looking at the majority of tour stops, they seldom asked for visual evidence of students' ideas. Findings revealed a discrepancy between what docents understood to be open-ended questions and what staff meant by open-ended questions. A questionnaire collected from docents prior to tour observations indicated that docents believe asking open-ended questions to be one of their strengths, but by program managers' standards, it was only observed to occur at 15% of tour stops. Some teaching behaviors occurred more often in Western art galleries (such as asking open-ended questions) and other behaviors occurred more often in non-Western galleries (such as having students sketch). Docents learned from the evaluation which objects were used repetitively on tours, which helped them consider expanding their tour repertoire. Findings were used to develop three new docent training sessions focused on areas in need of clarification and strengthening.



Team Members

Sharisse Butler, Evaluator, Dallas Museum of Art
Dallas Museum of Art, Contributor


Audience: Adults | Evaluators | Museum | ISE Professionals
Discipline: Art | music | theater | Education and learning science
Resource Type: Evaluation Reports | Formative
Environment Type: Museum and Science Center Programs | Public Programs