One of the most common questions I'm asked is: can you help us with our evaluation?
My response to that is always: very probably, what do you want and what are the parameters you're thinking of regarding timeframes and budget? And what is it exactly that you want or need?
Often, people don't exactly know. They know evaluation is a good thing, or at the very least that they should be doing / getting some. But sometimes that's all they know. So here are some things to consider when you want to commission some evaluation (or put it out for tender).
Firstly - if the evaluation is because an external funder expects / requires it, please do be prepared to let an evaluator see your application. They will treat it confidentially, but it is a very quick way for them to give you guidance on exactly what will work best for you. A good specialist won't be pushing a big sale, but they can help you decide which options are going to be best.
Secondly - no matter how much you decide to outsource or not, an evaluator cannot do everything for you. You need a good, consistent, honest working relationship to get the best results possible. The more you put in and own it, the better the relationship and the results will be. Ideally it works as a partnership.
All of this shows how I try and work with organisations wanting evaluation. This is what you can expect from me. You can also just say: "We have £x. We'd like X. Could you do that for us?"
In summer I researched and wrote a new resource for history and heritage educators on behalf of Curious Minds. Drawing together examples from across the North West, covering an array of indoor and outdoor museum and heritage locations, it explores how schools and heritage organisations have worked together to help young people learn about their local history in cross-curricular ways. It's particularly relevant to the Key Stage 2 curricula but extends to KS1 and KS3 too. Browse or download above, or from my resources page.
Each case study includes
- Description of a topic or activity
- Objectives and outcomes of the activity
- Practical activity suggestions to include in topics / lesson plans
- Top tips for planning and practicalities
- Links to further resources
Includes five example case studies of projects by schools and museum or heritage sites working together cover these overarching themes:
- Investigating a heritage site (through the ages and a timeline)
- Investigating a local street (in this instance Victorian but transferable to other periods)
- Investigating a historical period (Stone, Bronze and Iron ages)
- Creative engagement with maths (using the art / design of Blackpool Illuminations to cover the full KS1 & 2 maths curriculum)
- Exploring the local town (in this instance a coastal town with a migratory mining history)
Current History links
- the lives of significant individuals in the past who have contributed to national and international achievements
- significant historical events, people and places in their own locality
- changes in Britain from the Stone Age to the Iron Age
- a study of an aspect or theme in British history that extends pupils’ chronological knowledge beyond 1066
- ideas, political power, industry and empire: Britain, 1745-1901
With a foreward from Prof. Kerri Facer - education innovator and advocate for place-based curricula.
A few years back, I worked on a three year contract supporting organisational change in a group of universities who were starting to come to terms with a then brand new agenda, where academics and researchers needed to become more outwards facing, connecting with the public on their doorstep and at large. Part of my role was to mentor internal directors and project managers, and the departments they worked with, in looking for the impact of their activities. Like many major programmes, the initiative had a quite intense, technical, formal, robust evaluation system underpinning it. Like many organisations, this was not the fun part of anyone's work, and on top of everything else going on, was not generally what most people were interested in prioritising. In my mentoring role, I wanted to increase people's confidence about being able to carry out evaluation that was realistic and meaningful, and reduce their fear of becoming overwhelmed. At the same time, some of the community groups involved had been saying their previous experiences of evaluation in university programmes had, at times, been overwhelming, invasive, and one-sided.
As a result, I created a simple, practical, set of suggestions to make evaluation do-able, useful, positive and meaningful. It simply offered these ten top tips, and five years later with the huge amount of learning I've developed about evaluation, they still absolutely stand the test of time...
I'm delighted to be chairing Kids in Museums new workshop 'Welcoming Families with Autism' at the Science Museum on February 9th. It's a day packed with experts from museums and arts organisations who can share their experiences of welcoming families with children or young people on the autism spectrum. You can book for the event here or keep an eye on future workshops here
It's a subject I've been interested in for many years and have blogged about previously, though my interest has ramped up several gears over the past 12 months thanks to my involvement with two local autism charities, and my work with Lancashire Museums who commissioned me to research the subject of museums and autism from the perspectives of museums and autistic visitors. You can read more about that on my separate, ongoing blog http://www.museumsandautism.tumblr.com/ which combines museum practice, feedback from families and visitors on the autistic spectrum, and expert reports and presentations on the subject.
Free Downloadable resource - Children & Young People's Arts Participation in Practice: For Rural and Other Areas
Last winter I was asked to create a series of case studies and good practice guidance for arts related work with children and young people in rural areas. This was part of a bigger piece of work for Arts Connect as they began their journey to support the creation of a consortium for arts and cultural organisations across Shropshire.
Shropshire Arts Consortium was formally launched this week with much ground covered already in the past few months and a lively energy to carry on building opportunities for children and young people in the area moving forward. A website for their work is on its way and in the meantime you can follow them on the #ShropConsortium hashtag.
Many people were interested in the case studies and research I carried out, and Arts Connect have kindly agreed to share it as widely as possible.
The resource created from this research contains
Feel free to read or download the resource below...
I am so very lucky to be able to get involved with such a wide variety of projects. In each one I love to find out about new collections, artworks, exhibits, activities and the people behind them or indeed at the receiving end.
Right now I'm writing a resource pack for Curious Minds which looks at how local heritage can be used to work with schools towards an area based curriculum. The resource will include several case studies, one of which features Blackpool Illuminations.
It's little known that the Illuminations have a historic archive, or that they are all designed and made in Blackpool itself, at a design and manufacture depot called Lightworks.
You might like to read this excellent page about where the magic happens. Many images from the archive of illuminations artwork and some accompanying catalogue detail is available at the Illuminations blog right here. On occassion, Lightworks opens up for tours for special events and groups such as Heritage Open Days. A potted history of the illuminations is provided here.
Further information is available here.
Meanwhile, the Curious Minds resource, and another teaching resource produced by cultural team members of Blackpool council offering many ways to use the illuminations to support maths based learning - developed in close consultation with teachers, will all be available online to download as a pdf in due course.
Image: Up for Promotion, copyright Blackpool Illuminations Collection
Do you have experience of working with children and young people in rural areas through arts / culture / media? I'm currently doing a small piece of research for a rural consortium who are at the start of creating a county-wide strategic approach.
I'd like to provide the group with some core principles to inform the way they think about their work and some good case studies / examples of relevant activity to help them reflect and be inspired.
Can you add some tips / advice based on your own experience and / or do you know of some relevant programmes, projects, policies, initiatives etc?
If you could answer any of the 4 quick questions here, please do - let's hear about your experiences and top tips, thank you so much. (Survey closes 31st Dec 2014)
The relationship between museums and autism first began to percolate in my mind a few years ago and slowly I've been piecing together more and more learning and thinking. It's been accelerated lately for a number of reasons, each of which has some really useful learning for the museums (and wider cultural) landscape. In no particular order, they are presented below - take whatever learning and inspiration you can from it, and apply it in some way to your own work or thinking. Change is made one step at a time...
1. "If you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism"
People who have autism each have their own version of it. Many such people share some of the characteristics, but one person's experience of autism could be almost unrecognisable to another. (Great blog post here if you're interested in more on that theme).
2. We're slow on the uptake.
Cinemas have been programming autism friendly events for a few years now. Museums can a learn a lot here from their cultural counterparts. You could look up pretty much any cinema and find an autism friendly events listing. Try it. Why should museums be different? It's hard to try and assemble a single approach to becoming more autism friendly precisely because every person with autism has their own individual version of it. Whilst a good starting point is find out what you can, and do what you can with what you have (and read point 3 below), the cinema approach has taken a few core approaches:
- lower lighting levels when lights are up [to help people with extra sensitivity to bright light]
- lower volume levels [for people with extra sensitivity to sound / reverberations]
- trailers are removed from the show [reducing the time needed to be in a different environment or the time needed to focus]
- taking own food / drinks is encouraged [special dietary needs are common with autism]
- moving round the cinema is fine whilst the film is showing [because sitting still and / or quiet for long periods is a challenge for some people with autism].
Simple adaptations, no cost involved.
3. We have an excellent champion working from the inside out.
She won't thank me for cheerleading her work because she's a modest and unassuming sort of person, but over on Twitter you can follow Tincture of Museum, 'Volunteer at Museum of London, Horniman Museum and Bromley Museum; blogger; mum; advocate of autism in museums'. She's a gentle and hugely effective campaigner and writes very insightfully on this subject. Maybe start with this post from her blog.
4. Collectively, the museum profession is onto a good thing.
There was a great question about how to successfully, sensitively and appropriately include some particular children with autism and other conditions posted on the Group for Education in Museums email list and some brilliant insight collated and shared back around by Dr Trudie Cole, Learning and Access Manager at Poole Museum Service. You'll find it all in the document at the bottom of this post. What an incredible body of knowledge and experience museum professionals have on this subject - pretty powerful when you put it all together.
Likewise, the Science Museum have their Early Birds programme offering more quiet access for children with autism (both in terms of noise and visitor hustle and bustle); Manchester Art Gallery trialled their Open Doors programme for families with children on the autistic spectrum; and the RAF Museum have recently become the UK's first cultural venue to receive The Autism Access Award from the National Autistic Society. More here and here.
There are more plans afoot and more conversations being had within the museum sector to push awareness and understanding up a gear. I'm sure this will soon become a big thing for our profession.
5. You can't necessarily spot museum staff (or people in general) with autism, and it's hard to put in an employment policy.
This is a strange one that came about when I saw a post on twitter asking if anyone knew of any museums who employed people with autism.
It would be unethical and illegal (in the UK at least) for an organisation like a museum to give any personal information out about any of their employees.
And then there are further complications which would make it difficult even if technically, they could, but I think it's worth talking about these with the intention of building more understanding about the nature of having and working with autism...
On the one hand I think you'd be hard pushed to find a museum of a decent size that didn't employ someone with autism (statistically autism is currently thought to occur in between 1 in 100, and 1 in 80 people in the UK, depending on which reports you read); and many facets of museum work would naturally attract certain skills and characteristics known to be part of the autistic spectrum.
On the other, who would know? Autism is invisible.
There are a range of associated conditions that can accompany autism which have physical manifestations but autism itself exists and plays out within the brain first and foremost. This leads to complications about identifying employees with autism since
a) a person may not know they have it - it may never have occurred to someone that they may have it, and diagnosis levels in adults (particularly women) in the UK are low for various reasons
b) a person may have self-diagnosed, but have no professional confirmation - so do they have it or not?
c) if they know they have it, they may or may not have chosen to let their employer (or anyone else) know
d) even if a museum were to have an actual pro-autism or targeted disability employment policy, see a, b and c above
So, if for some reason you're interested in finding people with autism who work in museums, try and find the people, rather than the museums.
6. More here
And finally - there is a long list of autism friendly work by museums around the world here (listed by Autism Speaks, though this is not an endorsement of that organisation. If you discover a list hosted elsewhere leave a comment, I would be happy to refer elsewhere instead when possible).
... thanks to Trudie Cole and Claire Madge for their help with putting this blog post together...
I've just recently started work on the evaluation of a year long programme hosted by Manchester Metropolitan University's Institute of Humanities and Social Science research. Entitled Creating Our Future Histories, the scheme sees 'early career researchers' (usually those who are completing a PhD, or are just about to start one / have recently finished one) working with Manchester community organisations. Each partnership is mentored by a more experienced academic. The partnerships are punctuated along the way by a series of weekend workshops combining into a professional development course on how community engagement between academics / researchers / communities might take shape. Each partnership is also expected to meet at least once between each workshop.
The partner-groups are developing co-constructed plans and activities which research previously uncharted areas of the organisation's heritage, and look towards incorporating their future in a way which will become part of their heritage in years to come - there's the 'Future Histories' part. Late next Spring each group will showcase their findings in creative and public ways - many yet to be decided; though ideas are already circulating about film, video, exhibtions, time capsules and more.
I'm about a month in and I'm once again struck by the many rich and hidden histories of Manchester - industry, architecture, battle and radical action, many many things which show the inventiveness and resilience of this sometimes bloody minded and often ingenius city.
You can find out more about the project here and I particularly recommend the research group pages and project blogs to find out more about the organisations involved and the progress and reflections taking place.
Massively vital reading for teachers (even more so secondaries). This insightful post by Alexis Wiggins, was original scripted anonymously. She later outed herself - rightly so, absolutely nothing here to hide!
She starts with, "I have made a terrible mistake. I waited fourteen years to do something that I should have done my first year of teaching: shadow a student for a day. It was so eye-opening that I wish I could go back to every class of students I ever had right now and change a minimum of ten things – the layout, the lesson plan, the checks for understanding. Most of it!"
She goes on to describe her experience and provide 3 key learning points, each with practical suggestions to her past and future self, and all other teachers out there.
Read it and then do it. And then if you can, get your managers / heads / team to read and do it too.
Some of you will already include some of these things in your practice but I guarantee some will be new inspiration.
I'd also extend the basic principle to all people who work with audiences, customers, learners, pupils, participants etc... when was the last time you walked in their shoes. Turn the tables on yourself and see what you can improve.
There's already some discussion of this going on on my Facebook page if you want to join in... *here*
Lovely post from EarlyartsUK on The Wild Classroom - whys and hows and what it looks like and why, most of all, not to be afraid of the wilderness! Let's get more kids out there...
Just when you thought there was nothing left for Manchester to festivalise, I'd just like to draw your attention to Gothic Manchester Festival 23-26 October, run by The Manchester Centre for Gothic Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University.
I'm so excited about this on many levels. Not that excitement and goth really go together but...
I'm really struck today by why artists / schools often feel a need to 'dumb down' what's possible - so many simple mosaics, hand prints, flowers, butterflies... there's nothing wrong with those, but it's as though there's an assumption that children aren't capable of getting wrapped up in ideas, thoughts, concepts, challenge, investigation, invention and processes. I know that they are, that they can handle more conceptual art than many adults, that ideas and possibility makes them buzz. So where is it that these limitations come from? Maybe it's the adults who are scared? Should we take a step back and learn from what the children can unlock for us? I'm just saying, let's not always fall back on the lowest common denominator.
You can read more comments and join in this conversation over on Facebook here...
Incredible film about what it means to be a craftsperson, a maker, and the 'consumer' of handmade objects. The way in which the quality and love is communicated so strongly and authentically is captivating. As well as the magic that underlies the ballet shoe. I was lucky enough to see what this meant to dancers first hand, way back when I worked with Northern Ballet. The memories of dancers sitting in corridors scratching and darning the shoes for better fit and grip is still vivid.
Look what my lovely friends at MOSI have done for all you wonderful teachers. Roll up roll up, bring all your finest young imagineers!
There is an exciting opportunity for potters to get involved in a historic landmark project to commemorate the outbreak of WW1. The Tower of London are currently engaged in a major art installation to place 880,000 Ceramic Poppies around the moat of the Tower for November 11th 2014.
At Potclays we are proud to be the supplier of materials and equipment to the project and the fact that part of the installation will be made in Stoke makes it that little bit more special.
There is the opportunity for about 20 people to take part in paid work to support a WW1 commemorative Art project.
This phase of the project commences on Monday 28th July and the duration of the work is up to 3 months and they need people who have some craft skills - for anyone who has done a BA or MA in ceramics or anyone with a craft background. They are looking for ceramic makers and technicians who can work a 9 hour day (with an hour lunch break) at a rate of £10 an hour for making poppies. This rate is negotiable for experienced makers willing to commit for the 3 month period. The working hours are 8am to 5pm.
The work will take place on the site of Johnsons Tiles in Stoke who have a great set up and there would be a lot to gain for graduates or practitioners from a 3 month opportunity working there in terms of learning and experience.
Fiamma is especially interested in any technicians or experienced craft practitioners in the team to help meet their target of 880,000 poppies.
If they can't do the whole 3 months, they’d still like to hear from them. Please contact Fiamma directly about this opportunity.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are available, leaving a telephone number.
Having relocated back to Lancashire, I'm now evangelical about it's hidden arts and cultural treasures. Here's a fantastic map of public arts across Pennine Lancashire - do come and visit the area and explore via the ArtsMap . The image is one of my absolute favourites: The Atom, on the Lancs / Yorkshire border...
I'm just wrapping up some research for a museum. They asked me to collate case studies of good and innovative practice in how comparable venues (which in this case include medium-large scale museums and galleries) use digital technology to support school visits, in workshops, self-directed studies and potentially back in school.
They also wanted to find out about the ways such activity can be evaluated. They absolutely do not want to have form after form handed to teachers and students, and wondered how else really good evaluation might take place.
The brief contains phrases like blended learning and e-learning. It's problematic because there are no clear definitions of what those are and where they start and end, And it's a real rabbit hole - an entire and massive area of specialisation and expertise.
It's a small piece of work, just skimming the surface to help the museum think in new and different ways about what they might do, and how to monitor its impact well.
I've collated 64 pages, over 32,000 words, of case studies of applications, programmes, projects, reviews and industry expertise opinions on contextual issues such as evaluation, future proofing and general good practice in digital learning and engagement. I've visited more websites, read more conference papers, searched more forums than I can count and interviewed some really insightful and inspiring colleagues in the field.
Eventually, if the museum in question has no objections, I'll upload the collated set of case studies and expertise here for anyone else who might like it. It will be in a very rough and ready format - just my research notes really, in no particular order. But it may be of some help to someone so watch this space...
In the meantime, it seemed much easier to put all 32k+ words into wordle and see what happened. There it is above, that's what the whole shebang amounts to. Interesting at this stage that 'online' is so prominent, given that I wasn't specifically looking at just online options. Interesting too that if 'conversation', 'collaboration' or 'participation' are in there, they certainly don't jump out.
Teachers in Merseyside and Pennine (East) Lancs applying for Artsmark or Artsmark Gold are now able to book on to training sessions in their area.
Teachers from other areas are also welcome (though may find training closer to home via the Artsmark website).
Merseyside Training: Monday 17th October.
Pennine Lancs Training: Tuesday 1st November.
Read more here or go straight to online booking via the links below.
Merseyside training: book here
Pennine Lancashire training: book here
This year I'll be working as a trainer for schools in the North West applying to the new Artsmark scheme. Arts Council England have selected and trained a group of arts education specialists across the country to offer training to teachers, to help them with applications for the revised Artsmark scheme.
This training is authorised and endorsed by them, and is relevant to primary and secondary schools applying at Artsmark or Artsmark gold level* including all schools regardless of whether or not they have applied for or received the award before.
(*Artsmark Silver does not exist within the new scheme).
Save the date:
Merseyside: Monday 17th October at the Bluecoat Centre, Liverpool
Pennine Lancs: Tuesday 1st November at Burnley Youth Theatre, Lancs
NB This will be the only Arts Council England authorised Artsmark training in these areas.
Booking details will be announced shortly but do save the date now. Please contact me if you wish to reserve your place so you can begin arranging cover. Training will be at a fee of £80 / teacher for a full day including lunch, introduction to the arts education work of the host venue, and individually tailored support for your application. Full terms and conditions will be available online soon.
Please don't hesitate to contact me with any questions.
Find out more about Artsmark here.
(To contact the Artsmark team, please find the appropriate contact details within the application documents.)
I'm most interested in how the public, your public, whoever that may be, engages with culture and creativity.
If there's a design angle (be it contemporary design, textiles, built environment, engineering, social history, visitor flow, use of space and architecture etc) then I'm even more interested.
And if it nurtures creativity and develops personal, social or professional skills I'm absolutely all ears.
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