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Instructing students in history museums: A systematic literature review


Brent Geerts, Fien Depaepe, & Karel Van Nieuwenhuyse


History museums offer a wide range of possibilities to engage students in learning about the past, as well as about history. When compared to scholarly research on other types of museums, their educational promises are underexposed. Within these promises, instructional practices and instructional agents such as museum educators and history teachers play an important role. In order to get a view on research methods and findings regarding instruction within history museums, we conducted a systematic literature review. Three scholarly databases were searched, yielding 45 peer-reviewed journal articles. Those have been fully screened, analysed and compared regarding their research design (in terms of research questions, participants involved, and theoretical and methodological approaches) and their research outcomes (in terms of what they revealed about the content, the nature and the approach of instruction in history museums). Review outcomes reveal four different types of research designs, ranging from describing instructional practices to studying beliefs or a combination thereof, or a focus on the relationship between instruction and students’ learning. Within each of these types, great variety was observed regarding the involved participants and the theoretical and methodological approaches. Besides, the review distinguished three areas of research outcomes, namely the goals of instruction, the instructional methods and the relationship between schools and museums before, during and after instruction. Findings within these areas reveal that certain tensions exist, for example between cognitive and emotional-affective learning goals, also related to disciplinary (historical) and civic educational goals. Other tensions were to be distinguished between student- and teacher-centred instructional methods and between beliefs and practices regarding collaborations between schools and museums. Taken together, these research outcomes yield important implications for instructional practices in history museums and for future scholarly research on them.


History museums, History education, Instruction, Museum education, Systematic literature review

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How to Cite

Geerts, B., Depaepe, F., & Van Nieuwenhuyse, K. (2024). Instructing students in history museums: A systematic literature review. Historical Encounters, 11(1), 180-202.


  • Issue Published 10 January 2024

  • Double Blind Peer Reviewed

  • Author Retains Copyright

  • Distributed under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0​ License

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