Teaching Controversial Issues Using Museums: Experiences and Case Studies from The Manchester Museum, United Kingdom

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Museums can provide unique learning experiences linked directly to a national curriculum for all pupils ranging from early years to post-16 education. How can teachers capitalise on the varying learning styles offered by these institutions, and what assistance can museums offer in teaching difficult concepts?

The Manchester Museum has the longest running programme of educational engagement activities of any public institution in the UK. It delivers a high standard of varied learning programmes across all ages and actively contributes to Widening Participation and Access Agendas. Workshops dealing with issues such as surrealism, democracy, racism and debates on human remains in museums have all been successfully incorporated into our educational offer.

This interactive session will focus on how teachers can utilise museum collections as a resource for teaching. Identifying how museums can support learning and enhance topics within any curriculum it will demonstrate that museums can cater for every student, regardless of age or ability. Methods of learning outside the classroom will be explored, experiences disseminated and techniques for teachers to apply in their local cultural institutions will be shared.

Participants will come away with an understanding of how such issues can be approached using spaces outside the classroom, such as Museums, and how those topics can be addressed in a non-confrontational yet educational manner.


Keywords: Museum, Controversial Subject, Cultural Institution, Learning Outside the Classroom, Curriculum Links
Stream: Curriculum and Pedagogy; Student Learning, Learner Experiences, Learner Diversity
Presentation Type: Workshop Presentation in English
Paper: Teaching Controversial Issues Using Museums


Cat Lumb

Lead Educator, Secondary Humanities
The Manchester Museum, University of Manchester

Manchester, Greater Manchester, UK


Louise Sutherland

Curator of Learnin,, Secondary and Post-16
The Manchester Museum, University of Manchester

Manchester, UK


Ref: L09P0678