It's not about language, it's about people': Do ESOL learners benefit from engagement with museums?

Julie Carr talks about how visits to museums improve the life skills of ESOL learners as well as their language skills. May 2014, Leeds.

10 reasons why you should use objects with ESOL learners

This seminar focuses on the results of the presenter’s MA dissertation, which tested the hypothesis that visits to museums do benefit ESOL learners. The results show that trips to museums are about improving the life skills of the learners as well as their language skills. They embolden the learners to step outside the confines of their communities and neighbourhoods to explore London and its museums, as well as improving relationships with each other and their families.

Using constructivist learning theory, the research showed that objects enable learners from around the world to make meaningful connections to London’s past using their prior knowledge to create new meanings, as well as providing alternate ways of accruing cultural capital. Learning about the development of London from prehistory onwards also gave the learners hope for an improvement in conditions in their country of origin. Objects allow learners to participate in ‘real’ conversations with native speakers and learn historic words.

Julie also investigates whether museums are genuinely prepared to receive ESOL learners as independent visitors i.e. without the support of their class tutor and the museum educators. Tutors were invited to contribute positive and negative experiences to reach a consensus how museum professionals should be moving this agenda forward within their institutions.

About the speaker

Julie Carr is a museum educator, and has recently finished an MA looking at how people learn in museums. She has also served time teaching secondary History. Currently, she is the Programme Manager for adult learning at the Museum of London, where she is responsible for the ESOL provision.

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