Evaluating Workshops

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evaluating workshops

Introduction

‘Evaluating Workshops’ is a collaborative project between Bluecoat Display Centre (Bdc) and Liverpool Hope University, funded by Curious Minds.

Bdc is a registered charity and small independent arts organisation founded in 1959.

We sell, exhibit and promote the work of over 350 selected contemporary craftspeople each year working in a broad variety of media, enhancing lives through education, participation and learning; and improving the health and wellbeing of the communities of Liverpool and beyond, through our exciting and well-established outreach programme of craft workshops and artist residencies.

Why evaluate?

Evaluation is really important. It helps us to measure the impact of a workshop, how we can improve any future work and the effect a workshop has had on a person’s mental health and well-being. This can be really difficult to capture.

Our evaluation process so far has tended to ask about what has and hasn’t worked well, and has included photos and making notes of verbal feedback during the sessions about how participants are feeling and what they think of the course.

We feel confident our craft workshop sessions have a positive effect on young people’s mental health and well-being, but want to capture that through more effective evaluation.

We hope this booklet will help craft practitioners and other arts organisations to measure the effectiveness of different workshop approaches in order to gain more extensive and significant insights into our work.

Within the following pages are examples of the various methods of evaluation used by our craft practitioners and outreach representatives. Each example has been tried and tested by them, and they each use a variety of methods depending on the type of workshop and setting.

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Mark Bell

Early Years Lead at the The Life Rooms Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust

The Life Rooms are centres for learning, recovery, health and wellbeing and a base for a range of life opportunities for service users, carers and the wider community. They are there to challenge stigma and promote positive mental health and wellbeing.

At The Life Rooms, they evaluate to measure the impact of their work and how it has assisted the journey of young people’s progression and to help steer future projects with young people.

A variety of different approaches to capture evaluative data are used, such as case studies, survey monkeys, hosting a ‘celebration event’ at the end of projects and side by side/co-production meetings.

Side by side working is particularly important to Mark. At the end of each session, he completes verbal feedback with each participant, which can help steer and adapt the next session. Expression of interests can be shared with participants during these sessions, to see if they are interested in research and development. They also like to use past participants as co-facilitators which has been a useful way of gathering evaluative data during workshop sessions.

Case studies are often used at Life Rooms, to demonstrate the impact a programme has had on an individual. They are carried out by the Innovation Agency NWC who support the discovery, development and deployment of innovations and improvements in health and care across Cheshire, Merseyside, Lancashire and South Cumbria.

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credit: Innovation Agency NWC.
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Vicky Charnock

Arts Co-ordinator at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital

Alder Hey adopts evaluation to assess the impact their work is having on young people e.g. supporting their wellbeing, reducing isolation, anxiety and improving confidence, and to see what has worked well and what has worked less well. This is helpful for both the host organisation and the artist delivering the programme. They also evaluate for their funders, to show them how their money has been spent and if it has made a difference to the target audience.

They tend to use a three-pronged approach with their evaluation:

Evaluation cards that the patient or parent fills in themselves. They use a scoring system so they can measure progress in long term patients and those having multiple sessions. Their evaluation cards always include space for a child to draw what they feel about the session they’ve just experienced. This is particularly helpful for a child who struggles with writing or where English is not the first language. For some projects, a baseline questionnaire and post-project questionnaire is used to assess how far the patient has progressed through the project.

Artist’s own reflections on the sessions, their observations on what worked well, what made a positive impact, things that didn’t go well. Some of their practitioners complete reflective notes, sometimes the artist will have a feedback session with the Arts Coordinator.

De-briefing with healthcare staff: this is very useful to assess the wider impact of the arts intervention. For example, they often get told that patients respond to the arts when little else has worked and that they are more compliant with treatments.

In addition, they often write a case study on a patient who has engaged in the project. They combine the three approaches (patient and family, artist reflections, healthcare feedback) to highlight the impact on an individual e.g. whether the patient had learnt or developed new skills, felt their confidence had improved, developed emotional resilience etc.

Case studies can be very useful for bringing stories to life and really demonstrating how the arts can impact on health and wellbeing and affect change, over a longer period of time.

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image credit: Vicky Charnock.

Gill Curry

Printmaker

The main reason Gill evaluates her workshops is to establish how much a young person has enjoyed their experience. Did it have a meaning for them? Were they absorbed in the task? Had they learned a skill? Could they understand the instructions?

Gill uses photographs, film and a written summative account of the project to help her evaluate, recording the positives and negatives of the workshops, including comments from the participants.

Gill has run several outreach workshops over the years. In 2017 she ran printmaking workshops at PSS (Person Shaped Support) Leeson Centre, over a 6 week period.

The participants were totally engaged with the project ‘Journeys’ and enjoyed the collaborative nature of printmaking. Video and photographs recorded their work, presenting the individuals sketch book work and their booklets made during the project. A film of their work with added music shared together gave all participants a sense of pride in their achievements. Some young people were able to discuss and wanted to share their achievements with the group and they helped to draw in the less confident.

Gill also ran a series of art/printmaking workshop sessions at the Walton Centre in the Complex Rehabilitation Unit, which helps patients critically injured in car crashes and other traumas, as well as those recovering from serious medical disorders.

Gill worked with a patient who had been flown from the Isle of Man after a brain haemorrhage. He painted, collaged and worked with clay, and in the first week he drew in a sketch pad a mind map of his road to recovery, which was a remarkable way of assessing his journey, he gained a lot from the activity.

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image credit: Gill Curry.

Helen Felcey

Ceramicist and Professional Tutor in Design at Liverpool Hope University

Helen works in both Higher Education (HE) and freelance arts contexts.

The main reason they evaluate here is to assess the student learning experience, taking into consideration, their learning journey and how they’re achieving against the learning outcomes/academic standards of the programme.

In freelance workshop settings, questions have focused aspects such as: How has the course impacted on participants creative development? Has the course met the participants expectations? How could we improve our programme/activities? How much did the practitioner engage or participate in the workshop programme? How relevant did the participant find the programme? And to find out more about participants – to understand gender balance, age etc.

Above all, Helen is always interested in understanding ‘what really happened’.

The above describe more formal methods of evaluation, but in her experience it’s capturing the evaluation ‘on the go’ which has really supported the process, the experience for participants and the development of future work/research.

One of the most effective ways Helen has found of evaluating, was when she and ceramicist Joe Hartley worked alongside a poet, Barry Taylor in the Typecast project – clay and recovery. As she worked with the participants, Barry would invite the participants to offer words, which captured how they were feeling, how they felt about the clay and the experience of making. Barry would then take these words away and form poems during the week. These would be offered back to the participants the following week. The poems captured something very ‘real’ about the process and meant a lot to the participants. These, alongside images of their process and reflections were put together in a short run publication, which can be viewed here: https://www.helenfelcey.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/ Typecast_2_Publication_Web.pdf

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image credit: Des Lloyd Behari.

Joanne

Education Manager at the Crafts Council

Crafts Council is the national charity for craft. Their Learning and Participation programmes support everyone to have a go at making – from early years pupils to adult learners.

At the Crafts Council, they evaluate to find out if the art activity has had the intended impact for the young people they’re working with, to monitor the quality of their delivery and to gather evidence for advocacy and fundraising.

One of the main ways Crafts Council demonstrate impact on young people is through creative evaluation.

Make Your Future brought together expert partners, secondary schools, and maker-educators to reignite a passion for making in schools. In the first three years of Make Your Future, the Crafts Council worked in 63 schools, with 117 teachers, to engage over 4280 pupils across Yorkshire, Birmingham and London.

This focused period allowed them to co-create methods of creative evaluation with the maker-educators on their team and develop ways of working that could be flexible and relevant to learners in all kinds of settings.

Working with formal lesson plans and schemes of work it was paramount that within this, they could offer something that could be delivered in short bursts of activity, with cohorts of variable size and needs, including those in SEND and alternative provision settings.

As a practical activity they created a series of evaluation stickers which learners could use in a more interactive way than a standard written evaluation, the responses of which were collated and presented in sketchbooks for each of the regions.

For some schools, group crits were part of the offer allowing learners to have a taste of a professional crit but with the nurturing guidance of an experienced maker, building on communication skills and confidence.

Make Your Future encouraged ongoing self-reflection and peer assessment. Negotiating decisions and recognising strengths and weaknesses as part of continuous evaluation is often more important than a summative evaluation.

In schools the emphasis is weighted heavily towards final evaluations and exam results – not the journey made and the critical thinking involved in that process. Makers are natural self-evaluators, often working intuitively flowing from making to reflection and back again, as seamlessly as breathing, their hands thinking as they work.

This haptic way of thinking and evaluating through materials has subsequently fed into their Make First approach for Craft School and beyond.

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image credit: Caroline Heron.

Rachael Howard MA (RCA) FHEA

Textile Artist and Senior Lecturer in Textile Design Bath School of Design

Rachael evaluates to check that participants are enjoying themselves, to make sure that participants are learning and feeling a sense of achievement from their activity, to find out if they have learnt a new skill and what else can be offered to further their knowledge.

She also uses evaluation to determine what works well and what could be improved in a project. Rachael likes to use photography to document the reactions of a person when they are doing an activity and to capture the delight on a person’s face when revealing a screen print for the first time. Photographing the actual visual outcomes are evidence of a person’s involvement and commitment with a project. Written feedback is also used from children and their parents.

Rachael has also used creative arts-based methods of evaluation. She worked with pupils at Lauriston Primary School, Hackney, London, on two projects titled Talk & Textiles and Talk 2 Text, they won The Artworks Award for Art in Education.

The idea of Talk & Textiles was to improve pupils’ spoken word and communication skills, by making their own individual “Story bags”. This gave pupils a physical prompt that helped them to speak out with confidence and tell their story. They had an exhibition and told stories using their bags to parents and friends. The story bags and subsequent exhibition was evidence that the pupils were engaged and excited to show their creations and talk confidently about the new skills they acquired.

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image credit: Rachael Howard.

Verity Pulford Glass Artist

Verity evaluates to understand the impact her workshops have had on young people- has it given them confidence, a freedom of expression, has it enabled friendships and support, has it had any negative impacts? This approach also allows for the feedback to influence future planning of projects, to highlight areas which may not have been considered and to develop areas which have worked well.

Verity uses observation and gentle questioning throughout her sessions, to evaluate the successes or challenges. In her experience, written evaluation can be useful, but people don’t want to write anything negative if they think it’ll be read by the artist/teacher, this also depends on literacy skills and can be off putting for some. Focussed questioning, written or verbal, works well at times- what part did you most enjoy, what else would you have liked to do in the session?

By observing the participants’ reaction to the sessions, Verity tries to develop a connection with each individual so she can be aware of their needs within the session, if they require additional support or want further development. She has often observed sessions that really connected with a talented young artist, who needs more encouragement/ information on training sessions or career advice. These kind of observations and evaluation can be easier when delivering a series of sessions rather than a one off.

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image credit: Bdc. portrait: Stephen Heaton.

Acknowledgements

The information collated in this booklet is from our craft makers and representatives from our various outreach partnerships.

Thanks to the following people for their generous input:

Mike Badger – Artist, Sculptor and Musician

Mark Bell – Early Years Lead, The Life Rooms, Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust

Vicky Charnock – Arts Co-ordinator at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital

Gill Curry – Printmaker

Zoe Dennington – Head of Learning and Participation, Crafts Council

Helen Felcey – Ceramicist and Professional Tutor in Design at Liverpool Hope University

Joanne Haywood – Education Manager at The Crafts Council

Rachael Howard – Textile Artist and Senior Lecturer in Textile Design Bath School of Design

Claire Penketh – Associate Professor (Disability Studies) at Hope University

Verity Pulford – Glass Artist

Scan the QR code for more information and resources about the project.

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The Aviary by Caroline Gregson, residency commission at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, facilitated by Bdc. image credits: cover, IFC, IBC, back cover © Bdc.
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