Museum Pedagogy

Over the past generation, museums have undergone an enormous transition. No longer simply repositories of artifacts and authority, they are now, as the Smithsonian’s Stephen E. Weil once described, “a place for somebody.” As museums have moved toward a visitor-centered approach, their education departments have professionalized and developed a series of techniques designed to engage visitors, spur interaction, and spark retention.

Over the past four months, supported by the Teaching and Learning Center, museum educators and classroom instructors have worked together in an interdisciplinary Focused Inquiry Group to develop best practices and lesson plans, and to explore how we might adapt museum educators’ tools and tricks for the college classroom.

This workshop was offered in Spring 2018 as an in-person workshop at the Graduate Center, CUNY. The workshop was developed by Sarah Litvin and Elizabeth Decker in collaboration with the CUNY Public History Collective.


Join us on Thursday, February 22 in Room 9205 at 6:30-8:30 PM to learn how the museum education toolkit can enliven your classroom lessons and take-home assignments. We’ll dive into several model activities that use museum pedagogies to foster active, student-centered, and creative undergraduate experiences. We will also take a look at the theoretical underpinnings of these strategies, and provide examples of how we have used them in our own teaching in several different disciplines. In the last portion of the workshop, we’ll invite you to think about how you might apply museum pedagogy in your own courses. With that in mind, you are encouraged to bring a lesson plan that you would like to workshop!

Interested but can’t make it? Stay tuned: As an extension of this workshop, we are developing a digital resource that will offer CUNY instructors tools and models to integrate museum pedagogy into their courses.

This event is co-sponsored by the CUNY Public History Collective.


All materials on this page and in the linked google folder are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC-BY-SA) 4.0 International Public License.

This folder contains outreach materials, workshop plans and slides.

Materials Folder: Museum pedagogy Workshop

Workshop Plan


  • Name, Program, What you teach, Why did you come to this workshop?

Part 1: Modeling Museum Pedagogy in the Classroom

A. Barometer (5 min)

B. Rummaging and Close Looking (10 min)

C. Creative Writing (15 min)

D. Class as Curator (10 min)

E. Possibly do another barometer

Part 2: Unpacking the Toolkit

A. Physicality: (6 min)

    • Theory
    • Examples from what we did above
    • Examples from our own lesson plans

B. Materiality (6 min)

C. Narrativity & Storytelling (6 min)

D. Class as Curator (6 min)

Participants Think about Applications to their Own Teaching (maybe 30 min)

    • Free form with guiding question:
      • Have an assignment in mind: tell us about it. Where do you see any of these things fitting in.
      • What’s a strategy you want to try and how would it helpful?
      • Are there any barriers to using these? What kinds of adaptations would you need to make?
      • What do you think would be the benefits of this to your class?