In evaluating our residencies, our aims have been to:
- Capture participants’ feelings about their new experiences such as staying overnight, performing, learning about theatre disciplines such as verbatim, as well as their thoughts on the administration and logistical sides of the residential.
- Understand the barriers to university and assess whether our project has helped to shift them.
- Make sense of and acknowledge conflict – This could include participants dropping out, leaving, arguing, or forming in/out groups. It could also include staff and management resistance, defensiveness, projection and deferring.
- Gauge participants’ views on verbatim as a tool to enable care leavers’ voices to be heard.
- Interpret the impact of the performance on different members of the audience, including foster parents, carers, social workers, and academics.
- Encourage a space for reflection for the team to bring up any issues and to replan the next day.
WORKING CREATIVELY AND FLEXIBLY
In TVF we have been keen to make the evaluation a meaningful and pleasurable activity for the participants, and also wanted to capture the affective qualities of the experience. Consequently, we aimed for an empowerment-driven participatory methodology, which is achieved through creative and performative activities with both participants and staff facilitators.
As an evaluation practice this feels very free and open.
The outcomes are regularly discussed and revised, unlike most summative evaluations. We avoid heavily weighted baseline and exit points, which impose a need for participants to change in a specific way.
To sum up – our evaluation is like a stream winding its way through the project, with a consistent presence, and an energy that’s responsive to artistic, social and dissemination needs.In addition to the activities involving young people, additional documentation is provided by observation and ethnographic notes by evaluators. Writing notes in real time, without the constraints of using formal report language, enables us to create affective narratives of the project. It also allows a certain degree of reflexivity for the evaluators concerning their own positioning and power. Given the intensity of the residential, such notes provide a useful way of documenting, writing through and writing out the day’s experiences.
“An army of activity preparing the table. There is something almost celebratory going on. The energy is fresh, nervous, bubbling like the second before house lights go off. Muffins, pastries, fruits, juices, water and then your eyes fall on something pink and homemade… raspberry marshmallows.”
Mita, The Verbatim Formula evaluator