I am very interested in different ways of collecting feedback from and data about the audiences we work and I have a PhD in educational research. Over the years, I have worked with a number of researchers and evaluation specialists and have led projects of my own. However, this project has been particularly exciting as the funding has enabled me to spend a day a week working with other museum and gallery educators talking about what we do and why we do it.
What does learning look like? Like many arts and cultural organisations, we often refer to broad and overarching aims such as, ‘inspiring learning and engagement’ which are rightly both impressive and ambitious. However, these broader strategic aims aren’t particularly helpful when looking at how to evaluate our programmes from day to day. What does learning and engagement actually look like in practice? At the UCM we make use of the Quality Principles which offer broad and aspirational statements such as, ‘being authentic’ and ‘enabling personal progression.’ These are incredibly useful in helping us to articulate our mission and plan activity how do we actually evidence personal progression, excellence and engagement and other such aspirational statements? Logic models (sometimes also known as a Theory of Change) are increasingly being held up as models of good practice within the arts and cultural sector. They have been widely used in the charities sector, education and in healthcare settings for many years. I first came across them at the Arts Council England (Quality Principles pilot study) with the University of Cambridge Museums. More recently the Education Endowment Fondation/ Royal Society of Arts Learning About Culture Project has highlighted how useful they can be for cultural leaders and practitioners.
What is a logic model? A logic model is a system which enables you to unpick the different components of a programme (such as outcomes, delivery methods, responses, impact goals) to ask whether it is actually doing what you want it to do. In particular, in a logic model you consider how the outputs of your programme relate to the outcomes you want to achieve with that programme.
Logic models in action As part of this project we have been working together to develop logic models around different strands of our programmes. We are finding that they are useful not only for evaluation but also for project planning and monitoring.
What is the difference between an outcome and an aim? An aim relates to the strategic goals of a particular programme and is often be more institution or funder led. An outcome is the effect an intervention has- something which has happened or changed as a result of taking part in an activity or programme. In this project it has been helpful to think of outcomes in terms of something which will lead to a change or strengthening in knowledge, skills or behaviour. We have had to think carefully and be realistic about what we can measure. We have also found it useful to draw on current research and practice in each area of our programmes.
How is an outcome different from an output? This can be confusing but I find it helpful to think that an output is something tangible like a blog post, an event, an exhibition or a poem or art work. We have had many interesting conversations over the course of the project about these and many other related issues. You can read more about the different strands of the project in the case studies written by members of the Practical Evaluation project team.
Image above: Young Ambassadors Take Over Day (c) UCM.