Museology Master of Arts Program

October 23, 2020

Angie Ong Faculty Spotlight

This is the first spotlight of the Museology Faculty spotlight series, which consists of short interviews with our faculty to discuss and reflect on inclusive teaching, their learning outcomes, some of their course highlights, and what they’ve learned adjusting to teaching online through the pandemic. Our first spotlight is with Angie Ong, who teaches the evaluation specialization, museum and technology course, and is one of our four thesis advisors. Her responses are below:

Photo of Angie Ong

Angie Ong, Museology Lecturer

Our program is grounded in the belief that museums can make the world a better place and that we must center equity in all of our work. We are all committed to inclusive teaching. Can you give us an example of what that looks like in your class? 

My approach is both holistic and practical. Holistically, I review all of the syllabi that I’ve created to see how I can make it more explicit in how the course actually aligns with what we believe in as a program. That way, it’s apparent to students taking my class, and looking at course descriptions, that this is what we’re going to be doing and what I feel strongly about. So there’s transparency from the get-go. 

As an example of how this manifests itself practically in my teaching, let’s take a look at the structure of the year-long evaluation program this year. Typically, we dive into the projects because we were so pressed for time and excited to get going. But, this year, I wanted to create some space in our class to talk about the issues of culturally competent research, evaluation, and anti-racist theories and practices. It is critical to emphasize to our students the importance of understanding the power and responsibility we have as researchers and evaluators; and that the work we do is incredibly important both for the people we’re supposed to be the voices for and the people who we’re sharing those voices with. We serve as a touch point for all of that, therefore, it is super important for us to reflect on ourselves and really understand where we each are individually.

 

The makeup of our student cohort has changed over the past two years. How has your teaching changed in response to this shift? Can you give us an example of one thing you do differently? 

I’ve been teaching with this program for long enough that I have really seen the evolution of our student body. And this has shifted my mindset in how I even come into a classroom. I’ve become more aware of the language that I use, the kind of assumptions that I’m making about what people can and can’t do in a given situation, and being conscious of the scenarios that people are living with. Simply acknowledging that not assuming everybody’s in the same place. Also, really letting my students be part of the classroom in ways that they feel comfortable. I really let them engage in ways that they want to, giving them space and building time in my class for different ways in which they can do that. 

 

What do you think is your most important learning outcome? What does that mean in practice? 

They’re all important. But, something that I firmly believe in is reflection and self-awareness. It’s not just doing the work, but thinking about the work itself. Not only asking how I did the work, but what does that work mean, and how does this work affect how I now think about myself, my community, stakeholders, and museums. 

Reflection takes many different forms and, in some cases, it can even be a physical assignment. For example, it can be a self-assessment that students in my year-long evaluation course are going to do after every quarter to reflect on their contribution and what they did with their teams. Or it comes in the manner of peer review where teams look at each other’s work, give constructive feedback, and (re)consider their own approach and views. 

 

Along those lines, can you describe your best assignment? And what makes it the best? How does it achieve your learning outcomes? 

I’m going to refer to the tech challenge (in my Museums & Technology class). It’s new and I haven’t tried it out yet. But I’m really excited about it because it’s about understanding key trends, opportunities, and challenges surrounding technology in museum environments. It’s becoming aware of the areas where technology is making an impact in museums and appreciating how the concepts of museums and technology can intersect. 

This challenge actually encompasses every one of my learning outcomes. First, students have to research what’s happening in the technology and museum fields to build an understanding of the space we’re working in. They then have to define, design, and advocate for a technology approach or solution that solves a particular problem based on real issues of inclusion, equity, and access in museums. This one assignment centers on an important program learning outcome, incorporates different aspects of the learning process, and builds valuable skills in critical thinking and collaboration.

 

Our faculty are all committed to training museum professionals as well as contributing to the field. What do you see as the main way that you contribute to the field? 

The Specialization in Evaluation is contributing in some way to the field because it centers on  students working in real-world museum scenarios. They learn how to design studies, collect data, analyze that data, and most importantly, work hand-in-hand with a museum in our community that values evidence-based decisions. These museums are asking our students to help them better understand the problems and the scenarios they are facing. I think that is ultimately the best way that we can contribute to the field and build bridges in our community. It’s incredibly rewarding to know our students are making a real difference.

 

What do you think are some of the most important lessons we’ve learned as we’ve shifted to remote learning? 

Lessons learned: you need a comfortable chair and good lighting.

I’ve also learned that my students are awesome and that they are incredibly gracious. They are willing to be vulnerable and go out there with you, try things, and not hold your feet in the fire if they don’t work. This shift has also forced me to think about what is important to teach and pull everything else back. It’s also made me think about the energy in a classroom. In a physical classroom, I am moving constantly. I use my hands. I’m walking around. I’m very dynamic, and I think translating that into Zoom made me reflect on a couple of things. One, I didn’t want to make my students crazy, so I had to dial back my movement. But at the same time I also realized that they do need my energy to keep things engaging in the virtual classroom. Second, it made me think about pacing a class and not just going rapid fire like I am as a person. It’s challenging to learn from a square on a screen. So now I find myself stopping a lot and saying, ‘Hey, is everybody with me? How do we feel about this? Alright, we’re going to do this now.’