Date of Award

Winter 12-15-2009

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Museums--including zoos--are one component of the science education infrastructure (Inverness Research Associates, 1996). Research literature has demonstrated that museums and their staff members effect educational outcomes for their visitors (e.g., Falk, Reinhard, Vernon, Bronnenkant, Deans, & Heimlich, 2007; Falk & Storksdieck, 2005; and Wagner, Chessler, York, & Raynor, 2009). While it is crucial that museum staff members have professional development (PD) opportunities, models of PD for museum educators are largely absent from the literature. This study provides understandings of the process of developing the capacity of staff members in one zoo's education department to meet their mission and strategic plan via PD. The PD program included conservation psychology, program evaluation, personal assessment, and learning communities segments and had individual, small group, and department-wide layers.

Staff members played active roles in guiding the planning team's decisions and as individuals whose expertise was valued during PD events. My role on the planning team and as a program participant positioned me to conduct a qualitative, participatory study. Utilizing Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) (Engestrom, 1987; 2001), PD planning and PD implementation were conceptualized as two interacting activity systems, and the research methodology consisted of accessing data sources present in both systems. The PD planning, implementation, and outcomes were conceptualized in accordance with components of CHAT, which according to Engestrom, include object(ive)s, tools, rules, communities, and roles or divisions of labor. Moreover, drawing upon CHAT principles, contradictions were viewed as a source of change.

Outcomes included expanded evaluation-related toolkits, a sustained learning community, and a model of one component of the Zoo's strategic plan, Affective Transformation. Findings suggested that outcomes were supported by the resolution of contradictions such as between structural top-down rules and the organic, free-choice rule that guided the PD; and by divisions of labor that supported tool usage. Implications include the feasibility to draw upon staff members' existing expertise in designing and implementing PD and that support of staff members' autonomy while providing sufficient structure and access to tools are factors that can support PD outcomes.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Joseph A. O'Sullivan

Committee Members

Jr-Shin Li, Robert E. Morley


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