Published: Aug. 19, 2018 By

Thora Brylowe, assistant professor of English at the University of Colorado Boulder, has won $10,000 from the CU President's Teaching Learning Collaborative (PTLC) for her work in developing protocols to guide undergraduate instructors through museum-based instruction and assessment.

Most museums promote student outreach and scholarly research, but students also enjoy hands-on, applied learning opportunities when they can work with museum collections. Brylowe has incorporated partnerships with the CU Art Museum (CUAM) into her teaching, including a spring 2018 first-year seminar titled Saving the World: Museums, Archives and Collections.

“Term-based access to a collection is a unique experience that offers material proof of students’ ‘real-world’ credentials,” Brylowe wrote in her PTLC grant proposal. 

“Classroom-museum curatorial collaborations give undergraduate students a chance to demonstrate that they can work in groups, research and write for a public audience, and plan and execute a complex, multi-step project,” she continued.

But such collaboration requires planning by both the museum staff and instructor before the university can grant students access to its collections, and instructors must contend with the required evaluation and grading. 

For these reasons, Brylowe and her collaborators, Hope Saska, CUAM head curator, and Cynthia Roman, prints curator of Lewis Walpole Library at Yale University, seek to create pedagogical and assessment structures for teaching partnerships between classroom instructors and museum personnel who would like to include research and curation opportunities in their museums’ outreach plans.

Brylowe, Saska and Roman will develop protocols to guide undergraduate instructors through models of museum-based instruction and assessment, Brylowe stated. To meet these goals, they will interview curators and their university-based classroom instructor-collaborators across a range of disciplines and develop a set of “best-practice” models for term-long instruction and assessment. 

The team will use these interviews, their own collaborative experience and published work in museum studies and educational research to devise guidelines to help instructors plan semester-long projects in collaboration with museum or archive staff.

At the top of the page, Thora Brylowe, at right, poses with students in this year's first-year seminar, Saving the World: Museums, Archives and Collections.

Ultimately, Brylowe, Saska and Roman will produce a textbook. They will also present two conference papers, write two articles for publication and plan to host a half-day symposium to showcase their work at CU Boulder.

PTLC, launched in 2006, offers faculty from all four CU campuses professional development and the experience and intellectual practice of work in teaching and research.