Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Jill Burruss


Forecasts reveal an increase in the percentage of mid to older adults in the U. S. and the need of educational programs for lifelong learners. In recognition of changing demographics, the American Association of Museums urged its member institutions to place a high priority on adult programs and research into learning. While museums have experienced changes in adapting to environmental conditions and more explicit educative mission, professionals have noticed the emergence of a meaning-making, constructivist paradigm.;Previously, no study dealt with the mental constructions adults have or form as they interface with a multi-faceted museum program such as the History Forum at Colonial Williamsburg. Using a conceptual framework based on Mezirow's (1991) work, this study explored, described, documented, analyzed, and interpreted the meanings intended by program planners and constructed by audience members. Furthermore, it interpreted changes in meaning audience interviewees reported. The study was phenomenological in orientation and employed various qualitative methods, such as a questionnaire, multiple interviews, and an evaluation form.;Findings indicated that the planners wanted to provide diverse opinions so that the audience could increase their perspectives, form their own opinions, and become more intelligent contributors in dealing with modern-day problems. The audience interviewees spoke of similar program aims, but they also variously addressed finding little diversity of opinion, difficulty in expressing their opinions, and no way to take further action in their everyday lives based on what they had learned.;Whereas the content of the forum provoked participants' thoughts about the program's topic and an eighteenth-century way of thinking, it also raised concerns about race and gender and political and religious issues. Throughout the interviewees' almost paradoxical statements about similarities and differences between now and then, a strong theme emerged--namely, that there has been very little change in the last 200 years. The findings also revealed some audience interviewees' uncritical attitudes, the importance of visual materials, and the power of interpretive drama. Although inferences should not be made about other audiences, this study may be enlightening to all educators concerned with andragogical strategies and who wonder what meanings adults form from a particular program.



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