Preeti Gupta, Ph.D.
I serve as the Director of Youth Learning and Research at the American Museum of Natural History. I began my journey more than two decades ago when I was first hired as an Explainer at the New York Hall of Science. The job was to conduct science demonstrations for the public and to engage visitors in conversations about science at the exhibits. That experience was critical in shaping my trajectory.
In my current position, I lead the strategic thinking, growth and research on youth programming at the Museum - in particular - youth who engage with us in non-school times. Committed to diversity, inclusion and equity, our group works hard at partnering with schools, parents and community-based organizations to first engage youth to explore the sciences studies at the Museum but then to deepen their learning through intensive multi-year programs.
Accessing the elite figured world of science (Chaffee & Gupta)
Redefining Professional Learning for Museum Education (Tran, Gupta & Bader)
Gupta, P. & Correa, J. (2017). There is no “Off Button” to Explaining: Theorizing identity development in youth who work as floor facilitators. Book Chapter. In Patrick, P. (Ed.) Preparing Informal Educators, Springer Publications
Gupta, P., Trowbridge, C. MacDonald, M. (2016). Breaking Dichotomies: Learning to be a teacher of science in formal and informal settings. In Avraamidou, L, Roth, M-W (Eds.) Intersections of Formal and Informal Science, Routledge Publishers
Gupta, P., & Adams, J. (2012). Museum-University Partnerships for Pre-service Education. In Second International Handbook for Science Education. Eds. B. Fraser, K. Tobin & C.J. McRobbie (eds.). Springer Publications. 1147-1162
Gupta, P. Adams, J., & Dierking, L (September, 2011). Motivating youth through authentic, meaningful and purposeful activities: An examination through the lens of transformative activist stance. Invited White Paper for Convening on Advancing Research on Youth Motivation in STEM. Boston, Massachusetts
Gupta, P. Correa, J. Bueno, S., & Sharma, J. (2010) Using cogenerative dialogues in an informal science institution. In K. Tobin, A. Shady (Eds.) Producing successful science and math education: Teachers and students working collaboratively. Sense Publishers
In this article, we consider the specific affordances of cultural production theory for examining how sociohistorical and cultural discourses of science been seen as elite impacts individuals at every level of education. We then extend this discussion by exploring how an informal learning space at a prestigious science museum is designed to explicitly tackle cultural discourses of science as elite breaking the barriers to identification with science.
It is through the collective work of museum educators that an organization grows its social capital in its local community and beyond its physical footprint. Given the significant contributions of museum educators to an institution’s outcomes, we argue for a shift in mindset on investing in their growth and development. We share our reasoning for this change through our experiences from the Reflecting on Practice program. Two leaders in our community offer their reflections on why they took this leap of faith and the outcomes 5–10 years since their first step.
Overview of Projects
Staying in Science
Science Research Mentoring Consortium
Funding by the National Science Foundation (DRL#1561637), this longitudinal study aims to contribute to the literature on the opportunities and obstacles faced by historically under-represented youth as they persist and enter STEM careers. The project documents that pathways of approximately 100 high school youth who have mentored science research experiences and examines it through a Community of Practice lens.
Funded by the Pinkerton Foundation, The New York City Science Research Mentoring Consortium is a partnership among 23 academic, research, and cultural institutions based in the five boroughs who share the goal of engaging high school youth in STEM research experiences working alongside scientists. The partnership among the sites allows each site to share recruitment efforts, scientist mentor preparation experiences, family engagement and create solutions for shared constraints.
Funding by the National Science Foundation (DRL#1934039), this research will focus on identifying innovative ways of supporting students to learn about and actively engage in authentic science practices through integrating CT into curriculum.
Next Generation Museum Conversations
Funding by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (MA-10-19-0593-19), in this project we will develop a new floor facilitation strategy that support college youth in learning how to engage museum visitors to use practices of science as they experience exhibits.
Most recent ruminations...
Ponderings on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Work
Like many museum professionals, I am immersed in reading about and thinking about issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in museums. As I think particularly about power, privilege and oppression and actions that we take in our daily work, I humbled by the small ways that I can make change which mediates shifts in where power lies and through the process, challenges my assumptions about the audiences that I work with. Working collaboratively with colleagues at my place of work but in the informal learning community generally, the areas of activity that are constantly discussed are about program design and whether the designs we use are actually supportive of the lives for whom they are intended. In terms of recruitment, have we articulated why we want to attract particular audiences and if so, do our strategies and recruitment material use an asset-based approach? When thinking about curricular design, what are the strategies to use to reduce stress for the learner and create a space environment to play with scientific ideas? When creating measures for studying impact, how are traditional methods missing the mark in documenting the lived experience of those who participate? Little by little, we advance our practice, and with each new reading and new conversation, I am transformed in my thinking and also contribute to transforming others.
Vision for Effective Facilitation on Museum Floors
There is a rich foundation of literature on the vision of what good teaching looks like in a formal classroom. There is a long way to go before we have a shared vision of what effective facilitation looks like on the museum floor. There are several best practices, models and professional learning protocols that can be used to guide the discussion but still, there isn’t a shared vision yet. What does success look like when having conversations with visitors? What are the goals we have for our visitors after they interact with floor staff? Should they leave knowing some big ideas? Does that not matter and leaving with excitement and “good feeling” is sufficient? Some might say that success is when a visitor can convey to someone else what they learned at an exhibit. Others might say that actual success is when visitors can apply the practices of learning from an exhibit to other areas of the museum or other museums? How do factors such as the visitor’s motivation for coming, the composition of the visitor group (family vs two adults) mediate a floor facilitators ability to create successful interactions? Is one interaction with a floor facilitator enough or visitors need to experience a chain of interactions? As I progress in my project work over the next year, I will need to revisit these questions and working with colleagues, create a vision for what effective facilitation at AMNH looks like. What are the features of an effective facilitation? How does one teach a new floor facilitator to develop skills to enact those features?
What I have read recently
An Accidental Apprentice, by Vikas Swarup
By the author of the original story, Q&A, which led to the movie, Slumdog Millionaire, this book tells the story of a middle class single girl in New Delhi, India who is approached by a CEO of a major company and told that if she can pass seven tests, she will become the new CEO of his company. The story unfolds with her encountering these seven tests and through the journey, we encounter the realities of the human condition.
Emergent Strategy, by Adrienne Maree Brown
This book invites us to feel, assess and learn from changes as they come. I haven't start this one yet, but I am hoping it will help with strategies in managing change from a leader's perspective.