But Will It Work? Mastering the Art and Science of Formative Evaluation in Art Museums

How-to Session
Meghan Stockdale, The Cleveland Museum of Art, USA, Elizabeth Bolander, Cleveland Museum of Art, USA

Published paper: Mastering the art and science of formative evaluation in art museums

In a world of evolving visitor needs and expectations, it is increasingly important for art museum professionals to be agile in the design process. Initiating a dialogue with audiences early on can help maximize the emotional impact and educational effectiveness of nearly any museum project, including high- and low-touch interactives, labels, websites, and mobile apps. In this “how-to” session, participants learn about ways to integrate formative evaluation techniques into their development process as a way to link audience needs with the goals of museum initiatives.

Presenters share how the Cleveland Museum of Art uses formative evaluation to inform a multitude of museum-wide projects. They explore the various components of this type of evaluation and guide participants through potential applications. Through hands-on activities, attendees have a chance to work in small groups to execute a formative research project from issue identification through presenting results. Additionally, participants learn how to conduct formative evaluation at a rapid pace and in a low-cost manner, allowing for the utmost level of customization and flexibility. Evaluators and non-evaluators alike leave ready to add formative evaluation to their development toolkit.

Diamond, Judy. 2009. Practical Evaluation Guide: Tools for Museums and Other Informal Educational Settings (2nd ed.) Lanham, MD: AltaMira Press.

Patton, M. Q. 2002. Qualitative Research & Evaluation Methods. (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Inc.

Step-by-Step Guides for Conducting a Formative Evaluation. 1987. In Joan L. Herman, Lynn Lyons Morris, & Carol Taylor Fitz-Gibbon (Eds.), Evaluator’s Handbook. (pp. 42-87). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781412984188.n3

Rossi, P. H., Lipsey, M. W., and Freeman, H.E. 2004. Evaluation: A Systematic Approach (7th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Inc. http://www.sagepub.com/books/Book224290siteId=sageus&prodTypes=any&q=Evaluation%3A+A+Systematic+Approach&fs=1