Exhibition Curation as Authentic Pedagogy

Authentic learning is an instructional method that provides students with opportunities to meaningfully explore and construct relationships in contexts that include real world issues through projects relevant to the learner. The driving theory behind authentic pedagogy is that students are more inclined to be genuinely interested in their learning and more motivated to learn when their education addresses real life topics that are relevant to their lives. One of the key aspects of authentic learning is that students learn things that they cannot simply be "told" by the teacher. In this way, the students' explorations are centered in order to generate authentic learning.

One of the most successful authentic learning activities that I have come across is a group exhibition curation project. The project allows students to curate an exhibition on a theme that is of interest to them. This allows students to pursue their own individual genuine interests in the subject, as well as learn how to collaborate to create an experience that is meaningful and of interest to one another and the larger community. This is a great example of authentic pedagogy in that there are quite a few things that the students can’t be “told” by the teacher and must reason through themselves, including determining spatial capacity, making meaning through spatial context, collaboration with participating artists and the community, etc.

This kind of authentic learning activity needs to be properly scaffolded in order for it to be successful. The teacher must provide enough structure for the students to successfully navigate and learn through the process. It is important to provide students with a list of clear criteria for the exhibition (curatorial statement, minimum maximum number of artifacts, what community concerns/problems are they addressing with this exhibition etc.) I also start the project by having student groups submit a proposal on their theme and what kind of exhibition they intend to curate (art exhibition or history exhibit). In order to ensure that all students, regardless of their background, are included in the process, and actively participating in the experiential learning, I require that the group clearly define each student’s role and responsibilities before the curation begins.

This is a project that can be done in-person or virtually. There are pros and cons to each approach. While an in-person exhibit gives students a great spatial experience of the process, and more opportunities to reach out to the community to coordinate, a virtual option provides students with a far wider set of options for including artifacts into their exhibition (artwork from famous galleries, for instance). Whatever approach you choose to take, this learning activity can solidify concepts that have already been addressed, while providing students a meaningful opportunity to create their own experiential learning.

Gonzalez, J. (2017). To Boost Higher Order Thinking, Try Curation, https://www.cultofpedagogy.com/curation/

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