Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Curriculum & Instruction


Curriculum and Instruction

Major Professor

Barntiz, John

Second Advisor

Kanopasky, Abigail

Third Advisor

Talmadge, Andrew

Fourth Advisor

Bryant, J. Allen

Fifth Advisor

Speaker, Richard


The purpose of this study was to investigate museum learning by describing the experiences of selected museum visitors who viewed a specified exhibit. The research question is: How does a museum exhibit function as a literacy event for viewers? The responses to interview questions described what viewing was like for two subjects. The paradigm for this research is New Literacy Studies (NLS). NLS considers the cultural issues surrounding literacy experiences. NLS assumes that language arts reflect cultural differences and literacy involves the process of constructing meaning (Barton, Hamilton, & Ivanic, 2000; Gee, 2000; Street, 1995). This model of literacy considers three factors of literacy: the literacy practice, the literacy event and the text (Barton & Hamilton, 2000). The literacy practice for this dissertation was museum visiting. The literacy event was viewing one museum exhibit. Through research in multiliteracies (Cope & Kalantzis, 2000), objects and written discourse constituted the text. Two high school subjects spent 15 minutes viewing a specified exhibit on separate occasions. They were asked seven questions designed to aid their recall. The Contextual Model of Learning (Falk & Dierking, 2000) was used for describing the phenomenon and for the analyses of the data. The Contextual Model of Learning describes museum learning as the interaction of three spheres: the Physical Context, the Personal Context, and the Socio-cultural Context. The Physical Context was analyzed through narrative description, the Personal Context through micro-analysis (Corbin, 1998; Miles & Huberman, 1994), and the Socio-cultural Context through Critical Discourse Analysis (Fairclough, 1995; Meyer, 2001; van Dijk, 2001; Wodak, 2001). The results show the Physical Context of a museum exhibit facilitates viewers in accessing their Personal and Socio-cultural Contexts to make meaning. The data indicated the subjects of this study formed global concepts, supported main ideas with specific details, constructed cause and effect relationships, formed comparisons, and engaged in other types of cognitive behaviors as they interacted with the text. The results also indicated that the Contextual Model of Learning would best describe the literacy event if the model showed the dominance of the Personal and Socio-cultural Contexts over the Physical Contents.


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