Docent Evaluation

Moderator: Rena Minisi, Mingei International Museum, San Diego, California
Earlene Baumonk-Cancilla, Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton NJ
Susan Bollendorf, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Kim Dingess, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA
Dena Greenstein, National Archives, Washington, D.C
Barbara Guarnieri, Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD
Joyce Haas, Prescott Art Docents, Prescott AZ
Terry Holt, San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego CA
Liz Knutson, San Diego Museum of Art, Sand Diego, CA
Teresa Meyer, Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha NE
Elizabethanne Murray, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame & Museum, Cleveland, OH


I. What is the structure for the docent evaluation?

  • More experienced docents could conduct demonstration tours so that other docents can see how to conduct tours.
  • Shadowing other docents as a learning process might be helpful but there should be a structure or outline so the docents who are shadowing have a listing of expectations.
  • Peer evaluators should be given training in peer evaluation so that you have consistency in the evaluation process.
  • Docents who are being evaluated should meet with the evaluator to discuss the outcomes.
  • The time for the docent evaluation varied. Some docent programs conduct a peer evaluation and self-evaluation alternately every other year. Other programs conduct a formal evaluation every three years.
  • Some programs have an evaluation form that is given to teachers or tour group leaders which is either completed after the tour and given to the museum or is completed on-line. It would be helpful for the museums to share these evaluations with the docents.
  • Docents need to buy into the evaluation process.
  • The process should be a positive and useful experience.
  • What can be done if a docent is not meeting expectations?
  • This could be a problem if the docent is also a donor.
  • It might be helpful to maintain a file for each docent to be used as documentation.
  • Some felt staff intervention would be critical and others felt that ownership of the docent program should be with the docents.
  • All docents should be given multiple opportunities to demonstrate competency in case they happen to have an “off” day during the peer evaluation.


II. Who should evaluate the docents?

  • The responses varied depending on the size and type of museum. Some felt that the evaluation of docents should be a peer process. Different museums may need different solutions.
  • Others felt that it should combine staff and docents as evaluators.
  • It was felt that staff should be involved when there were docents who might not be meeting expectations for docenting.
  • A selection committee who interviews docent candidates could also be the review team.


III. What is the purpose of docent evaluation?

  • Docents should be touring visitors/guests rather than other docents during the evaluation process.
  • The purpose of touring is to make the museum accessible to the visitor and encourage the visitor to come back to the museum so the evaluation should reflect the success that the docent has in connecting with the visitors/guests.
  • The purpose should be to maintain museum standards and best touring practices.
  • Docents should be evaluated to see if they are including a balanced content and style and are using the skills learned in the training program.

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