Examining Holocaust education museum-initiated professional development: The perspective of museum educators during planning and implementation
Pennington, Lisa Kelly
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Museums today frequently consider education as one of their priorities. As such, museum administrators will provide resources, field trips, or professional development opportunities to support teachers and schools. In an era of high-stakes testing, museums, like schools, are also influenced by standards that may dictate what information is taught and when. Therefore, to remain relevant and useful to school systems, museums have altered their educational practices to align with standards. Some museums choose to provide professional development workshops for educators that focus on a topic included within those standards. The Holocaust, a topic that is mandated by over 30 states, is an example of one such topic—albeit one that might also be difficult or controversial to teach. A regional Holocaust Museum that has chosen to provide a weeklong professional development opportunity for educators on teaching the Holocaust serves as an example of a museum providing support to local school divisions. However, the literature indicates that museums and teachers, while both working toward the goal of educating students, often have little communication with each other. While multiple studies have examined how teacher participants react to professional development workshops, far less attention has been paid to those that plan such opportunities. The multi-tiered issue of interest, then, is that little is known about how museum educators plan a Holocaust-related professional development opportunity, what role they play in workshop implementation, and what they consider to be crucial when preparing teachers to cover the topic This qualitative inquiry focused on understanding how museum educators planned and presented a weeklong Holocaust education workshop for teachers. The research question was developed to determine how museum staff members understand the Holocaust and Holocaust education, and how that understanding influenced their role when implementing the workshop. Data collection methods included observation and semi-structured interviews. Analysis methods utilized in this study included first and second cycle coding methods, as well as episode profiles for each participant. The key finding from this investigation suggests that museum educators' understanding of the Holocaust and Holocaust education greatly shaped their planning processes, as well as the role they fulfilled in workshop implementation. Though museum staff members agreed that the Holocaust is difficult knowledge, they each approached the topic and how it should be taught in a different manner. The implications of this study, its limitations, and suggestions for future research are detailed herein.
- Doctoral Dissertations