Learning to date: Round 3 evaluation support

Published: 23 June 2021 
Author: Vicky Storey, Pat Cochrane 
Visual notes from a Teacher Development Fund meeting. The text in the centre says: Art makes you powerful.
Photo credit: Jane Ryder

External evaluation consultants Pat Cochrane and Vicky Storey share some of the challenges, opportunities and learning from the last year.

We’re aware of the huge pressures that schools and arts partners have been under this past year, but even at this time we’ve found teams keen to work with us.

We’ve discovered there are some benefits to life on Zoom! We’ve now met several times with each of the projects. We have been able to have several meetings for the price’ of one face to face, allowing for an iterative process with time for reflection and work between each session. Working through Zoom has meant we have both been able to join almost all of the sessions.

The projects are at different stages in planning their evaluation

  • Two projects have an approach to evaluation established. The evaluation lead had been identified at the outset. In one case this partner played a lead role in shaping the project, in another it is more a commissioned evaluation role.
  • Two projects had an arts-based CPDL methodology in place and are now either designing in-house processes or developing an evaluation brief.
  • Two projects are refining and clarifying their project plan and model of teacher development.

Where appropriate we’ve worked with teams to unpack the assumptions they have made in their CPDL model as this frames the evaluation process. We’ve used a theory of change methodology with several teams and with another we’ve supported development of a detailed plan and helped design a number of appropriate tools for capturing data.

A few general issues have emerged

  • Teams try to answer questions that are beyond the scope and scale of any one TDF project. We are helping them to identify what they can realistically explore and investigate within the scale of their project.
  • There is a tendency to assume that evaluation has to be measurable’ and quantifiable’ in a numerical score. We are seeking to encourage teams to see the value of the insights that a carefully designed, qualitative approach can bring. We are also signposting projects to relevant research.
  • The temptation in arts-based programmes for partners to become absorbed in the project and multiple exciting opportunities for children and lose a focus on developing teachers’ practice. Our role as an evaluation support team has been to nudge each of the teams to focus on what’s happening in terms of teachers’ practice, whether it is changing, and if so what elements of the project practice are leading to this change? What are the helpful approaches and what, if any, are the barriers?
  • A number of the programmes encourage teachers and arts partners to engage in reflective practice, by keeping reflective journals, recording their response to activities and reflecting on their own practice. Rather than seeing this as evaluation per se, we are interpreting this as part of the programme design and so we are encouraging projects to scope this into their evaluation of the CPDL process and to ask themselves what contribution this reflective practice has to teachers’ growing expertise in integrating the arts into their teaching.
  • Where programmes have commissioned external evaluation, the active engagement of schools and arts partners within the process is crucial as is the focus on formative approaches supporting both the project team and TDF as a whole.
  • Where an HE institution is doing related research, which does not directly tie in with teacher development, can this be held in parallel with the teacher development focus?

We’re looking forward to supporting teams through the next stage of their plans and helping identify the learning that comes from their projects.

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Evaluation Consultant
No headshot
Evaluation Consultant