Supporting Formative Development

Supporting Formative Development

As part of the Participatory Metrics Strand of the Quality Metrics National Test, we’ve been running discussion groups across England with a number of experienced individuals, representing a whole range of creative organisations working in participatory contexts, to further refine the Participatory Metrics.

Something that often comes up is the question: How can a reflective practitioner, with formative evaluation practice embedded in their creative processes, integrate and test the Participatory metrics using Culture Counts?

Formative evaluation is a process of evaluation that happens either continually or regularly (depending on the activity) whereby feedback is immediately incorporated back into practice so that the activity evolves based on the needs and development of those involved.

In contrast to the Quality Metrics’ methodology where a large part of the evaluation in most (but not all) cases comes after a production/exhibition is complete, the application of the Participatory Metrics demands a more versatile approach to be of genuine value to reflective practitioners working with participants. I’ll note here that this approach can equally be applied to using the Quality Metrics and other tools depending on the feedback processes an individual or organisation may use for a given project, particularly in the research and development phase of creating work.

In practical terms, the Culture Counts platform is well equipped to support different evaluation processes.

In the case of formative evaluation, I suggest identifying points in time across a project where you have space to think critically and reflectively of the work. If, by way of example, there are six points in time you’ve identified, in the dashboard within one evaluation, create six surveys (one for each point in time, named accordingly) using the same metrics with any required adjustments for grammatical tense and project milestones.

Depending on your activity, process and resource capacity, you/your practitioners/artists/producers complete the corresponding survey at a given time. If the reflective practice includes participant feedback, the URL can be used to gather responses from them too. It is recognised that if gathering feedback from participants or others, the metrics might be best accompanied in an open discussion around the objectives of the project and how the activity is developing in alignment with the metrics to support the reflective practice.

Having completed the formative surveys two interesting things happen:

  1. You can gather self and participant feedback at multiple stages and compare/contrast the responses, feeding back in to a reflective cycle in real time.
  2. It enables you to track these reflections over the course of the project in a standardised way and form an evidence base for the responsive changes that were made to the project in addressing the needs of the practitioners/ self-reflectors and participants.

A rigorous approach to participatory development and evaluation is something we have repeatedly come across in the arts sector. Supporting it with a real-time evidence base enabled by the Culture Counts platform, we hope will further enhance this high-quality area of practice.

About the author
Alison Whitaker was previously Head of Projects at Culture Counts.