Visitors' conceptions and self-report of learning in museums
This dissertation questions and examines conceptions of learning underlying museum visitors' responses to a self-report of learning questionnaire. The central problem addressed by this study is a lack of significant engagement in the museum visitor studies literature with the methodological implications of self-report methods; in particular their sensitivity to contextual factors and the ways in which instruments can themselves shape respondents' accounting practices. The methods of
... hods of investigation were grounded in phenomenographic research, an interpretivist approach oriented towards the description of how phenomena are conceptualized (Marton & Booth, 1997) and expressed (Anderberg, 2000; Säljö, 1997). Participants were invited to visit one of two museums, followed immediately by a self-report questionnaire. Once completed, a semi-directed interview was initiated to explore with respondents, as best possible, situated conceptions of learning used in the process of responding to the questionnaire. Through a hermeneutic process of transcription, analysis, and iterative categorizations 24 conceptions of learning were identified and organized into six main categories : learning as consuming facts and information, learning as cognitive acts, learning as embodied experiences, learning as behaviours and actions, learning as serendipitous, and learning as knowing about self and others. Discursive analyses of the transcripts also identified accounting practices and visitor self-concepts turning on low visitor responsibility for learning and the granting of considerable agency to the built environment. As a whole, the results affirm the need to include interpretivist and critical perspectives on the use of self-report methods within visitor studies and point to specific areas where more investigation is needed.