Evidence Based Education Programs at ACCA

News : 5 December 2018

The Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) is a leading centre for the artistic and wider communities to participate in a critically engaged contemporary arts culture, that encourages curiosity and transformation. Vital to achieving this objective is the successful delivery of ACCA’s Education Program.

We sat down with Eliza Devlin, ACCA’s Education Manager, to investigate how she delivers a successful Education Program through the implementation of stronger evaluation frameworks.  

ACCA’s free Education Program aims to deliver programs that meet the curriculum needs of teachers, enhance professional practice and contribute to student learning outcomes. The program encompasses primary, secondary, VCE, tertiary and community learning, professional development for teachers, free transport initiatives and outreach. Demonstrating the successes of such a broad and far reaching program is a challenging and crucial task. 

“The success of ACCA’s Education Program is delivered through focused learning experiences, a small team of three skilled and specialised educators, and a responsive, personable approach. As a team, we like to get to know schools and aim to understand their learning needs, intentions and expected outcomes from their visit to ACCA.”

By implementing ongoing evaluation of teachers, Eliza and her team are able to ensure that ACCA’s education programming remains responsive and valuable to participating students. It also helps flag opportunities for learning, reflection, and staff development. 

“The evidence we have gathered using the Culture Counts platform is authentic and important for program development, as we are experiencing attendance growth and are still wanting to maintain the quality of our education program. We are using and interpreting evidence collected on the platform to maximise the skills of the team and build on strengths of the program. Most importantly, evidence allows us to understand our audience and their learning needs.”

Gaining a better understanding of teachers’ experiences of the Education Program, ACCA’s evaluations has directly resulted in the adaptation of programs based on feedback in earlier stages of an exhibition. 

“Patterns found in the data indicated we needed to consider adapting the program to suit the needs of younger students who have specific needs and require more support from educators during their visit to ACCA.”  

“We also gained insights into aspects of the programs that teachers are enjoying more than others, or find more relevant. The feedback that has been most helpful has reflected on the quality of questioning techniques educators have used in the gallery and how that has encouraged deeper thinking and comments from students after the program and back at school. This is something we hope to build further evidence on. I have been surprised at how much teachers value the capacity of the educator to enable greater appreciation for contemporary art practices and ideas, which can be challenging for teachers to achieve in the classroom.” 

Often it can be difficult to bridge the gap between collecting data and using that data to make evidence-based decisions at an organisational level. The evidence ACCA has collected has not only identified the strengths of the program, it is ensuring that the evolving needs of teachers and students are understood and catered for. After testing different approaches and monitoring progress, ACCA has acquired a dynamic understanding of how to ensure their education program remains unique and valuable. 

“With evidence we can better tailor and plan programs more effectively. Additionally, the evidence we have gathered this year has helped me understand the unique style of our educators in the team and areas for their professional development.”

“After implementing the Culture Counts platform to collect evidence from teachers participating in our programs, we now hope to develop student feedback surveys and pre-visit surveys for teachers. As our main audience, it will be incredibly insightful to understand the experience of students participating in programs and compare this to teacher data. We will use the pre-visit survey to continue planning and tailoring our program, and to understand the learning needs of each group. With the inclusion of this evidence, I believe we will be able to better support high quality education outcomes.”                                                    

Culture Counts works with clients to ensure they are measuring things that are meaningful across their organisation. This involves linking measures to their strategic objectives so they can see across their program which activities are most strongly achieving their desired outcomes. To learn more, see the Expert guide to meaningful evaluation cheat.

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