Theses Doctoral

Wayfinding for Novice Art Museum Educators: A Post-Intentional Phenomenological Exploration

Mask, Ashley

Over the last four decades, museum education in the United States has developed into a legitimate and respected profession. However, for those who want to become art museum educators, the path is neither clear nor smooth. Those in the profession often face low pay, limited career growth opportunities, and a lack of job security. Despite these realities, the museum education field continues to attract people. Yet, there is scant literature about novice art museum educators, specifically about how they find their way as they enter the profession.

Utilizing a post-intentional phenomenological methodology, this qualitative study explores the phenomenon of wayfinding, defined as how someone orients themselves to the museum education profession and the ways they navigate the opportunities and challenges they encounter. The research questions guiding this study include how wayfinding took shape for five art museum educators with less than two years of work experience, what they went through upon entering the profession, and what helped them navigate their way.

Phenomenological research methods, including three one-on-one interviews with each participant over six months and a focus group with all of the study participants, were employed to gather rich descriptions of their lived experiences. The research materials were placed in dialogue with concepts that resonated with wayfinding as described by the study participants, including self-identity, agency, and relational autonomy. Findings illuminate how (un)welcoming these novice art museum educators found museum spaces, how their sense of self intersected with their wayfinding, how they enacted agency, and how they drew upon relationships with other people. Insights into the unique experiences of novice museum educators of color, the empowering effects of agency, the varying roles of mentoring and peer support, and the value of pausing to reflect on lived experiences are shared.

While the findings are limited to the educators in the study and are not representative of the field at large, this study provokes and produces new ways of understanding wayfinding for novice art museum educators. As the field of museum education continues to evolve, this study offers pertinent insights to university instructors who teach museum education courses, education supervisors in art museums, people who are interested in a museum education career, and art museum educators already working in the field.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Arts and Humanities
Thesis Advisors
Hubard Orvananos, Olga M.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
July 30, 2020