By removing a quantitative measure of performance, docents are more comfortable hearing constructive criticism shared in a thoughtful, practical and supportive manner. Observed strengths are also recognized and celebrated. The review program, including oral evaluation and written review, has been designed to help docents strengthen and expand their skills, and inspire them to reach new heights as they engage museum and community audiences.
A docent-led review committee is established each year that administers the peer review program. Docents are required to be reviewed every three years in their area of service -- tours and/or outreach talks – and may select the specific tour or talk for their review. Reviewers, who have been trained by the committee chair, are notified of upcoming reviews and respond with their availability. The chair selects the two reviewers for a particular tour or talk based on experience as a reviewer (pairing a new reviewer with a seasoned one) and a docent's expertise regarding the type/theme of tour. Once assigned, the reviewers contact the docent to solicit questions they may have and to discuss any changes in the review criteria since their last review.
The reviewers shadow the docent during the tour or talk, observing closely and taking notes. Afterwards, the reviewers meet for approximately 20-25 minutes to gather their impressions and thoughts concerning the tour or talk they have just experienced, based upon the Phoenix Art Museum's touring and outreach criteria. The reviewers are partners, participating equally during the review and achieving general consensus before inviting the docent into the room. The docent joins them, and a conversation of strengths and refinements takes place. This is an opportunity for colleagues to affirm the excellence of touring practices and techniques, and, when necessary, to provide insightful suggestions for improvements based on their own touring and mentoring experiences. Complementing the verbal review is written feedback, which has proven to build effective and clear docent-to-docent communication. An added, unanticipated benefit of this new evaluation tool has been its use in the Docent Training Program, allowing the training team to give feedback on skills and presentation techniques throughout the year.
Docents have expressed that this coaching technique has enabled them to gain concrete ideas and inspiration resulting in a productive and positive review experience. Reviewed docents are asked to add any comments they wish to their review form. A testament to this approach is the following: "I'm very impressed with all the time my reviewers took to give such a thorough written review, with so much detail about my tour and also their helpful suggestions. It was an extremely positive experience with a sense of comradeship in our mutual love for the docent program."
For more information, download the Phoenix Art Museum Coaching for Success On Site Tour Review Form .
Camilla Pettibone and Michelle Carpenter, Phoenix Art Museum Master Docents