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Teaching compared with Curating

Ian Raper3 December 2015

Following my PGCert in Teaching and Learning in Higher and Professional Education I’ve taken to thinking more about the profession that I have joined. I like finding metaphors and analogies to understand the world around me and that I occupy, and this time I thought about an analogy between curators and teachers.

This article is based on my incomplete knowledge of at least one of these roles, and I hope others will contribute their thoughts.

A curator is an expert in their subject field and also in the art of curating. They have a passion for the subject and wish to promote that through displaying the artefacts using their skills to make them engaging, interesting and relevant.

No one museum will have all of the artefacts related to their subject field, and within an exhibition they can only display a subset of what they do have.

If an attendee wishes to know more than is on display, or if the question exceeds the curator’s own knowledge, then they will know how to help the enquirer discover what they are looking for.

And I see parallels with teaching on an MSc level programme.

Within a lecture we have a limited window in which to display the ‘artefacts’ of the topic at hand. We are the curators of the knowledge of our field and we must use our teaching and learning skills to convey these to the students in an interesting and engaging way.

No one lecturer can hold all the knowledge but they should know the core structure of the knowledge and have the skills to research areas they don’t yet understand.