• Becca, Learning Wayfinder

Introduction to 'Excellence Judges' Framework

Updated: Jan 24, 2020

'Excellence Judges' is a learning community, a cohort of Scottish Learning Group members who have come together to actively train ourselves in finding excellence. Using a visitor-centered perspective, we seek out aspects of 'engaging', 'meaningful', 'reinforcing' and 'comfortable' at exhibitions and attractions.

The reason: For the joy of learning... that's it. That's why.

How: we are using Judging Exhibitions: A Framework for Assessing Excellence by Beverly Serrell. This is a book that both describes how to do the entire process, and provides the worksheets that we use.

Result: through individual and group work, we continually deepen our own learning and understanding of interpretation, learning and engagement.

What is the Judging Exhibitions Framework?

The Framework is a process; it was developed by Beverley Serrell and colleagues in the 1990s: the book Judging Exhibitions: A Framework for Assessing Excellence by Beverly Serrell (2006) is the result. The book explains the process, from its history to what the Framework is, and how to use the Framework, worksheets, and run the cohort's meetings.

Images: Museum of Childhood, Edinburgh 25/11/19 by Becca Boyde.

When I visited the Museum as a member of the Excellence Judges cohort I took lots of pictures to remind myself of my experience as a visitor. This guided my notes and discussion points I raised later at the cohort's Second Meeting.

The Framework consists of four criteria of excellence that a cohort looks for 'engaging', 'meaningful', 'reinforcing' and 'comfortable'. Each of these have aspects that define them. It was originally developed for science centre and museum professionals, but we have widened this out to mean all enthusiasts. The idea is that a cohort use the Framework's common language and goals in order to experience exhibitions and attractions through a visitor-centered perspective, and bring this deeper perspective back to their own work or interest in interpretation, engagement and learning.

The process is: First Meeting - cohort is formed and learn the Framework's language (critera, aspect, call-outs, etc), and choose the exhibition/attraction; Visit - members have about a month to attend the exhibition/attraction on their own; members use the PDF of worksheets (see below) during and after their experience to write up and codify their experiences; Second Meeting - the cohort comes together to discuss their reasons for rating how 'engaging', 'meaningful', 'reinforcing' and 'comfortable' the exhibition/attraction was; the next exhibition/attraction is chosen and Second Meeting date set, and a new Visit and Second Meeting occur. And so it continues.

How to become an Excellence Judge

1. First, check it out to decide if it's for you

There are two things to look at here:

a PDF of worksheets that we use to complete the process serves as a good introduction. (update: the server has been slow and we've had trouble connecting - all members of the cohort receive a PDF of the Framework)

The Judging Exhibitions book itself has it all. It is available on Kindle and paperback. I got a used copy within a week of ordering it from Abe Books for £17, from India.

2. get in touch

email me (Becca Boyde): scottishlearninggroup@gmail.com in order to join the cohort, which means access to:

  • initial training in how to use the Framework - contact me (as above) to arrange this

  • join the private Facebook group, which includes dates/times of Meetings

  • dates and times of Meetings

  • the exhibition/visitor attraction we're currently looking at - as some of these normally incur a charge but we'll have access for free for a period of time, it's important we know who are cohort are as we'll need to e.g. pass names to visitor services


Q: Why do I have to get in touch to join the cohort? Why is the Facebook group private?

A: we're following the advice in Serrell 2006 on how to run the meetings, which suggests 6 to 10 people for maximum learning. More than that is too many, as we'll all have a lot to say by the very nature of the process. Therefore, both the Facebook group and any other method we use to promote our Excellence Judges meet ups etc are 'private' listings.

Q: Must I read the book (Serrell 2006)?

A: No; while we recommend that you read the book, it is not mandatory. Note that as it is not available to borrow from a library that we know of, we have ended up purchasing it. Reading Serrell 2006 is the best way to understand all the nuances of what we're doing. It is also a very exciting read! And it has a DVD with examples of the entire process that are really good to take a look at to wrap your head around it all. Some of our cohort never get beyond the reading-the-book point, and that is ok! The book is very exciting and does get you thinking about how you experience exhibitions and attractions in a new way.

Q: What do you mean by individual and group work are involved?

A: the First and Second Meetings are done as a group, but each individual member visits the chosen exhibition/attraction on their own and fills out their own worksheets, which become the basis for their discussion points at the Second Meetings.