Policies, practices, public pedagogy : two case studies of art museum educators in Aotearoa New Zealand : a thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Museum Studies, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
This is the first in-depth study of art museum educators in Aotearoa New
Zealand. It seeks to understand and explain their practices, philosophies and
It begins by revealing the history of art museum education in Aotearoa New
Zealand in general, and more specifically at the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o
Tāmaki and the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu.
Using inductive processes, historical methods, grounded theory methods and
ethnographic approaches, in particular, direct observation, semi-structured and
unstructured interviews, and auto-ethnography, the research observes,
documents, and analyses the practices of educators, the policy context and the
politics of pedagogy in the two sites.
The study identifies three main features which together constitute art museum
educators’ praxis: typologies of pedagogical practice; the prevalence of
signature pedagogies; and two discourses – one which affirms and reproduces
the authority of the art museum; the other, a transformative and critical
pedagogy that opens new spaces for art museum education practices.
Paradoxically, although the transformative discourses and critical pedagogies
are ephemeral, fragile and rare they are apparent only in the presence of
The study also examines the complex nature of resistant and constructive forms
of art museum educators’ agency. It maintains that signature pedagogies and
the logic of practice have deep historical associations that continue to support
the political economy of the art museum.
The study posits that it is possible to work within the tensions of different
pedagogical epistemologies and ontologies if a new concept of public pedagogy
is invoked. Understanding public pedagogy merely as educational activities in
informal, institutionalised spaces does not account for the complexities revealed
in this research. Therefore, the thesis suggests that public pedagogy in the art
museum is a dialectic space that keeps both signature and critical pedagogies in
a series of dynamic, emancipatory relationships where transformation can be
contemplated and, eventually, enacted.
Conceptualising public pedagogy thus suggests that awareness of predominant
and transformative discourses and how pedagogical practices are interrelated
with them is crucial to both practitioners and policy-makers.
Understanding – and activating – the concept of public pedagogy provides both
the practical means and a theoretical construct to ensure that art museum
educators can deepen the community’s understanding of, and critical
engagement with, art and art museums more effectively.