© National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

Evaluating the learning programmes that you run is very important. Evaluation can let you know not just whether people enjoyed an event or not, but how they enjoyed and what parts they liked best as well as what could be changed to make a programme even better.


There are various methods of evaluating learning programmes and, as with developing a programme, it is best to tailor the type of evaluation to the audience who have attended the event. You also need to think about what information you want from an evaluation exercise. Evaluation information is not the same as audience marketing information – though often the two are confused!


Inspiring Learning For All (ILFA) offers some good ways of thinking about evaluating learning programmes and highlights the need to consider many different areas in learning. Generic Learning Outcomes stress enjoyment and creativity as much as acquiring skills and knowledge, and also consider emotional and behavioural outcomes.

For more on ILFA and Generic Learning Outcomes click here >>.


Evaluating learning programmes and events requires more than handing out a form. Evaluation can be recorded, written, drawn or discussed in a more in depth forum.


Even if you use a form as one of your main methods of evaluating an event, think very carefully about what questions you ask – use open ended questions – and bear in mind that those filling the forms may not have a lot of time.


Audiences can also evaluate an event by drawing, for example drawing their best part of the day. This is particularly suitable for school children and family events.


Recorded oral evaluation at the end of a session is particularly suitable for those who have English as a second language or literacy difficulties, or new audiences who may not be used to recording their comments in a written form.


More in-depth evaluation can be structured through forums or discussion groups. These are important if you have developed a bespoke and lengthy project with a particular audience and have already built up good connections with the people on your programme.


Online evaluation is becoming more common. An email database (kept in accordance with Data Protection procedures) is a useful source for contacting people to be involved in focus groups or eliciting feedback. Survey Monkey is one of the most popular websites for creating a free online survey http://www.surveymonkey.com/. A link to an online survey can be emailed or kept on a handheld device in a museum or gallery and filled out by participants in the activity in-situ.


Short surveys can be carried out via Twitter and Facebook surveys and to some extent twitter feedback can work as conversational evaluation. There are of course problems with this as this would only reach some audiences and care should be taken about what information is shared on social media as all these conversations take place in the public domain.


There is, however, little point evaluating events if the information gathers dust in a file. Use the evidence you have gathered to programme and change (if necessary) future learning programmes. Most of the time the evaluation will be incredibly positive and this data can be used as evidence that learning in museums, galleries and historic sites makes a real difference to how people experience their visit.


Evaluation is a great advocacy tool!