By Kathleen Dardes
As Tim Whalen explained in his introduction to this edition of the newsletter, Education became a freestanding department within the Getty Conservation Institute in October 2007. While the department itself is relatively new, GCI involvement in education goes back a long way—in fact, to the earliest days of the Institute itself. For more than a decade, the GCI's Training Program offered an ongoing series of short courses and workshops addressing a range of topics that dealt both with built heritage and with museum collections. The GCI has also continued a long-standing tradition of incorporating training into its field projects, tailoring efforts to the learning needs of specific groups of professionals within the countries or regions where our work occurs (see "Dialogue"). The educational activities of some of the Institute's field projects have produced didactic resources that can potentially be much more broadly used in other teaching contexts—a recent example being Technician Training for the Maintenance of In Situ Mosaics (2008), published by the GCI and the Institut National du Patrimoine of Tunisia. This compilation of materials was developed over the course of several teaching campaigns in Tunisia.
While these field-based training activities have been successful, the need for education and training in a number of other areas (both thematic and geographic) has increased over the years, reflecting the rapid growth of the conservation field itself and, with it, the expansion of its body of knowledge. Advances in research have yielded better understanding of materials and their mechanisms of deterioration, and these developments have produced innovations in preventive and interventive treatments. New specialty areas have emerged to address the preservation requirements of contemporary and nontraditional materials, media, and technologies. While conservation was once viewed as a largely technical field, conservation professionals now must be alert to the cultural, spiritual, economic, and other values inherent in heritagevalues that may play a role in their decision making. In short, conservation's knowledge base is not just increasingit is changing.
To serve the expanding learning needs of the field, the GCI, in the early part of this decade, began to lay the foundations for a department that would focus exclusively on conservation education and training. While training would continue within the context of most of the GCI's Field Projects, the new Education department would give the Institute the opportunity to target specific topics or audiences that lay beyond the scope of fieldwork.
The first few years of the Education department have been ones of growth and reflection. As new staff joined the department, fresh voices were added to an ongoing and far-ranging discussion on how the strengths of the Institute could best meet the learning needs of the field. Participating in many of these conversations were colleagues working either with museum collections or with built heritage, and they articulated needs that they had observed within these areas. Especially important to this process were discussions with professionals working in regions of the world where the field of conservation is still nascent and where additional training and networking opportunities would contribute to the further development of the profession.
This combination of consultation and contemplation created the foundations of GCI Education's current work program, which will evolve further as the department expands. Most of our educational activities will focus on areas where the GCI has had a long track record, whether gained from research or from fieldworkor both. These areas include the conservation and management of archaeological sites, the environmental management of collections, and the conservation of photographs. Newer but growing research areas within the GCIfor example, the conservation of modern and contemporary artwill result in training activities that respond to the urgent need to improve understanding and treatment of this class of materials.
As we consider the needs of the field itself, we will also explore some new possibilities for pedagogythe theory and practice of teachingand how it is reflected in conservation education. Recent developments within the education field, and the increased use of electronic technology, have significantly expanded the possibilities for teaching and learning, for collaboration and networking, and for building a strong community of practice among professionals. One of our priorities as a department is to research and apply innovations in teaching and learning to the GCI's educational work, adapting them to the working contexts of the participants of our projects. However, a fundamental first step in exploring pedagogy is to reflect upon the learning process itself, especially as experienced by adults, to understand better the motivation for and uses of learning by professionals. In other wordswhy do people learn, how do they learn, where do they learn, and how do they apply learning in their professional lives?
How Professionals Learn
Education, especially for the professions, is a process that involves more than learning about a topic. It's about learning to become a professional, equipped with the expertise and the ethos to function within a community of peers. The fact that professionals in a given field possess certain traits in common may have less to do with the content of the formal instruction they received than with how, through ensuing experience, they learn to function within a professional community whose members share the same values, knowledge, skills, code of conduct, and language. Professionals get their start in the classroom, but they become fully formed by the workplace, whatever it may be. We learn first from teachers and fellow students, and later from colleagues, mentors, and supervisors.
A tenet of formal education, particularly for the professions, is that it prepares the way for lifelong learning. The concept of lifelong learning emerged from the influential report Learning to Be by Edgar Faure and colleagues (UNESCO, 1972), which defined education as a process that extends well beyond traditional academic settings. The Faure report was also the first to promote the idea of a learning society in which individuals enjoy opportunities throughout their lives to expand knowledge and adapt their skills to changing personal and professional circumstances.
Nearly forty years after the Faure report was published, these concepts endure as cornerstones of modern educational thinking and practice, particularly in the professions. Students entering an academic program in preparation for a professional career soon discover that their education will not end in a few years' time with the conferring of a degree or diploma. Rather, they have made a commitment to lifelong learning, which means increasing their expertise at every career stage as a responsibility of their chosen field. As is the case in other professions, students of conservation are advised of this responsibility as part of their orientation to the fieldfor example, by the brochure Conservation Training in the United States, published by the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (2001).
However, lifelong learning does not mean lifelong schooling. As the Faure report and subsequent literature have noted, lifelong learning is a process that includes both formal andto an even greater extentinformal learning. While formal education is the traditional portal into most professions, the ability to evolve and "to learn to be" a full practitioner is, in large part, the product of the informal learning that occurs in the workplace. Informal learning is the knowledge transmitted through unstructured situationsconferring with a peer, reading a journal article, researching a problem encountered on the job, engaging in shoptalk with colleaguesin other words, the sorts of activities that characterize the working lives of most professionals. Although seemingly random and spontaneous events, these are, in fact, knowledge-creating activities that expand expertise and allow professionals to respond to new or changing circumstances. Indeed, most of the knowledge that humans acquirewhatever their walk of lifeoccurs outside a formal learning environment in circumstances that, although unstructured, are highly important. Informal learning is usually self-directed and socially driven, requiring access both to information and to other people who may be needed to interpret or validate that information. While informal learning cannot replace formal education (which provides knowledge fundamental to a field), it does have a critical role to play. It contextualizes and expands upon formal learning by taking it from the classroom and applying it to circumstances in real life.
As professionals move through their careers, they are likely to evolve in any number of ways, pursuing additional learning through both formal and, mostly, informal means. Some career paths may demand sudden and frequent change, while others call for more subtle and steady growth. Some knowledge and skills acquired at the start of a career may seem less important later onor may become obsolete altogetheras new materials and technologies come into use and demand new understandings or behaviors from practitioners. An individual whose work may be largely technical at one stage of a career may assume an entirely different roleperhaps as a manager or an educatorat a later stage. In these roles, technical knowledge is still important, but different and newer skills are required. In the workplace, informal learning provides the timely information and stimuli that allow people to cope with changing or uncertain circumstances. Learning fuels adaptation, as new information is acquired, tested, refined, and finally integrated into professional practice. By the time most people are ready to retire, it is estimated that at least 70 percent of the job-related knowledge they've acquired over the years has been obtained through informal learning (Center for Workforce Development, The Teaching Firm: Where Productive Work and Learning Converge, 1998).
Education planners, who tend to focus on the more structured aspects of learning, often overlook the importance of informal learning in the development of professionals and of the professional ethos. In education for the professions, internships and residencies come closest to providing the type of learning that most professionals experience in the workplace. While they cannot strictly be classed as informal learninggiven that they generally exist within the framework of a structured and formal program of learningthey do prepare younger professionals for the type of informal situational learning that will be a large part of their lives in the workplace. By combining planned learning experiences with the randomness of real life, internships and residencies offer opportunities for interaction, problem solving, and coping with the uncertainties of the workplace. As such, they provide important transitions from academia to praxis.
The GCI Approach to Learning
As is the case with other professions, many skills needed in conservation are acquired or honed outside the boundaries of traditional classrooms. As the GCI Education department considers how it will respond to challenges in the field, we anticipate that short courses and workshops, which can focus quickly on the immediate needs for information and skill building, will remain an important part of the Institute's work. However, our work will also reflect the fact that education does not stop with formally organized courses but is experienced throughout a career. We anticipate making more and better use of opportunities for informal learning and the interpersonal connections it entails. This will be particularly important in areas of the world where conservation as a field is relatively young and where some professionals may have limited contacts with peers elsewhere.
One way to extend learning into the workplace is to blur the traditional boundaries of a course. A course or workshop no longer needs to be defined by a specific time period or by a particular location. Given the communication possibilities provided by electronic technologies, a formal learning experience that began in a traditional classroom setting may now be extended, and even transformed, through distance learning, coaching, and mentoring. Often less structured than a classroom-based course, mentoring and coaching provide the essential ingredient of informal learningsocial interactionthat in turn fosters a sense of professional community and identity.
Mentoring as an adjunct to classroom learning in conservation education was first explored in the Teamwork for Integrated Emergency Management courses, a collaboration of the GCI, ICOM (International Council of Museums), and ICCROM (International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property) (see Conservation, vol. 23, no. 1). Since then, the GCI has applied this model to a series of annual courses, Fundamentals of the Conservation of Photographs. The design of these courses includes mentoring between instructors and course participants, as well as among groups of participants, for a period of several months following the classroom phase of the course. Mentoring guides the activities that participants pursue in the workplace, as they draw upon the information presented earlier in the classroom. As they undertake this work (either individually or in collaboration with fellow participants), they remain in contact through a course Web site with instructors who may advise, comment, or provide additional information.
Mentoring can be adapted to a specific context, including situations where it may be difficult to maintain long-distance relationships through electronic communication. An example can be found in the two training components of the GCI's Conservation of Mosaics in Situ projectone directed to archaeological site managers and the other to mosaic technicians. These two components involved a series of training workshops or campaigns for personnel responsible for caring for Tunisia's rich heritage of archaeological mosaics. Most of the participants took part in a series of training campaigns designed to support an incremental process of learning and experience. Between each training campaign, the participants applied what they had learned to their own work sites; an instructor visited the work sites to assess progress and provide additional mentoring as required. Critical to the success of this learning model is an instructor-participant relationship that extends beyond the temporal boundaries of a single short workshop or training event. Longer-term encounters facilitate better understanding and more confident practice. A somewhat different approach, although one that still depends upon a longer-term engagement with groups of learners, can be found in the GCI's Southeast Asia initiative. While the initiative's courses and meetings involve different groups of individuals and institutions, these events are designed to build a regional community of practice.
Over the next several years, the GCI will undertake a number of new strategic education initiatives, each focusing on a specific topic or region. These initiatives will be carried out in partnership with other international or regional organizations, as well as other entities of the Getty Trust. An example is the Panel Paintings Initiative, a collaboration of the GCI, the Getty Foundation, and the J. Paul Getty Museum (see p. 20). The Panel Paintings Initiative aims to address the long-standing need for training in the structural stabilization of panel paintings. One of its objectives is to develop residencies in panel paintings stabilization, which will allow younger practitioners to work closely with and learn from a number of experts practicing in Europe and the United States. Regular updates on this and other education initiatives undertaken by the GCI will appear in future issues of the newsletter, as well as on the Getty Web site.
As the Education department expands over the next several years, pedagogy will be an increasingly important area of research, particularly as it applies to conservation, to the audiences we're likely to serve, and to the contexts in which they work. An important aspect of this work will be the development of case studies that reflect the complex real-life situations encountered by conservation professionals in the course of their work. While case studies are common in business, legal, and medical education, their potential has not been fully explored in conservation education. Case studies developed by the GCI will offer an array of issues and viewpoints and will frequently require that learners engage in interdisciplinary collaboration to reach an agreement. These case studies, after being field-tested in the GCI's education projects, will be made available to other teachers through the Getty's Web site. For example, the GCI has created a preventive conservation case study of a historic house museum in Amsterdam.
Lifelong Learning and Connections
In recent years, the field of education, considered broadly, has been going through a remarkable transformative phase, driven in part by technological advances that have inspired new ways of thinking about and pursuing learning goals. Many of these developments hold considerable potential for conservation education, both in the classroom and in the workplace. In the future, lifelong learning for conservation will likely mean more than simply acquiring new information and skills. The extra and enriching dimension is the connectedness that results from increased peer interactions, whether these come in the form of face-to-face communication or are aided by some form of information technology. Indeed, Web 2.0 applications that assist communication and collaborationblogs, social networks, discussion forums, and wikismay be what give the biggest boost to a global community of lifelong learners, eager for both information and connection. As these communication tools become more common, they are likely to grow in importance in areas where the conservation field is still developing.
Learning has expanded into new settingsthe workplace, the field, and even cyberspacepresenting fresh opportunities for both formal structured learning and informal learning. Given the rapid pace of scientific and technological advances in the field, particularly in recent years, conservation professionals need to be prepared to assimilate new scientific or technological advances quickly, as well as adopt new ways of thinking and learn new applications within their areas of expertise. At the same time, they will find the advantages of being part of a more socially connected community, as information technologies expand the geographical reach of the workplace. As the GCI Education department grows, our work will increasingly extend beyond the walls of the classroom and the boundaries of traditional courses, reflecting the fact that learning must happen where and when it is needed.
Kathleen Dardes is head of GCI Education.