How Do You Know When Good is Good? (March 2019)

Marge Philbin, Docent, Albuquerque Museum

This is a story about one museum’s success in defining the elements of good tour delivery and developing a feedback reference tool for docent trainees to improve tour quality.

Albuquerque Museum has a volunteer docent population of 123 who, in a 2017 evaluation survey, asked for more feedback on their tours. In response, a team of five advanced docents, with a total of 56 years combined experience, developed a checklist called Tour Guidelines. The Guidelines, approved by the museum’s education staff, are a printed metric with examples of observable behaviors that can be used by each docent for self-improvement.

First, the tour goal was defined as “engaging the visitor to observe, learn, and enjoy our museum collections.” Next we asked “How do we know when a tour is good?” Using this as a framework, the team brainstormed an extensive list of tour behaviors, finally reducing it to 33 exemplary behaviors in five categories: pre-tour, introduction, delivery, conclusion, and post-tour.

Then, the team developed an explanation for each guideline with a definition and behavioral examples. This step lead to a common understanding of the Guidelines, both for the trainee as well as a tool for those (staff and advanced docents) who give feedback to the new docent.

Finally, a Tour Guidelines Feedback Form was developed to provide consistent, qualitative feedback for both new and advanced docents. The form lists each guideline with a three-column check-off area with these headings: Missing, Developing, and Good. Using this system, the trainee would know which guidelines were his/her strengths and which guidelines needed improvement. Advanced docents benefit from this form by using it as a self-evaluation tool.

 Good is good page 1Good is good page 2

Tour Guideline Benefits:

-Provides a standard of museum tour quality expectations and a reference model for giving a tour.

-Outlines fundamental skills that provide a framework for quality tour delivery for all ages, K-adult.

-Provides a tool for new docent training.
-Allows docents to prioritize his/her own skill development.
-Provides a model for pre-tour preparation as well as a post-tour self-reflection tool for tour improvement.

In a 2018 evaluation, 90% of the advanced docents and 100% of trainees reported the Tour Guidelines helped them give better tours.