The Golden Tones gives me a purpose in life. Learning new songs has improved my mind and memory. Performing has improved my posture, health, and appearance. Making others happy makes me happy. Edith, member of The Golden Tones
If your reaction to the word evaluation is anxiety, you are not alone. In all fields, not just arts and aging, many leaders confess that evaluation plays second fiddle to programming because there is not enough time or money to do both. They may solicit reactions and ideas from participants and teaching artists after sessions, and they may collect data on participants or audience members. Otherwise, they rely on informal observation and anecdotes. This tactic is perfectly valid and a good way to begin.
Ideally, however, you should aim for something more sophisticated: evaluating impact. You want to be able to prove that what you are doing is making a difference to participants and respond with more than attendance statistics and heartwarming stories, though these measures play a role. With the right kind of information on the impact of your program, you can gain access to more resources, garner greater public visibility, improve instructional design, and ultimately affect the lives of more older adults.
Like so many other aspects of arts and aging programs, effective evaluation requires planning. Figuring out what you want to learn, what you can afford to learn, who can help, and how to communicate results to various audiences takes time and creativity. Start modestly by tracking quantitative data such as attendance and administering satisfaction surveys to participants and partners. Or conduct a more sophisticated evaluation as a small pilot project. Supplement this data with anecdotes that you’ve heard, and you are ready to write an evaluation report. Remember that many funders have requirements for or strong preferences about evaluation.
This chapter looks at:
Appendix 7: Evaluation Tools