Undisciplined: Very Decent Docents

Sep 4, 2020

Credit Photo by Nate Pyper.

The word “docent” comes from the same Latin root as the word “doctor.” “Doctor,” of course, has come to be most associated with people who are practitioners of medicine, while “docent” has come to mean someone who serves as a guide, often in a museum or a zoo. But that original root? It means “to teach.” This week we’re going to be talking about the kinds of people who are good teachers — and the answers might be surprising.

Kelly Lynn Mulvey is an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at North Carolina State University. Her research focuses on building understanding about beliefs, intents, desires and perception, and she has a particular interest in how children challenge norms.

And, to that end, she was part of a team of researchers who recently found that teen-aged docents have a positive effect on the experiences of visitors to museums, zoos and aquariums. That study found that while visitors of all age groups reported having greater interest when interacting with docents of any age, their engagement and interest were higher if they interacted with youth docents.