performing impact

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is this a possible evaluation framing?

As we have been thinking about potential ways of reframing evaluation we have thought about some of our own research and things that we found of use. The Signature Pedagogies project examined in detail 12 artists working with children and young people. The project is still ongoing, but it has produced a report around which a website is being constructed. The framework which that project found most useful came from the Delors Report (1996) which was produced for UNESCO as a way of understanding the goals of education.

We have been wondering if the Delors ‘four pillars’ are helpful in thinking about what it is that participants get from their involvement in community theatre. The four pillars are:

(1) Learning to know
In the Delors Report ‘learning to know’ is defined as ‘combining a sufficiently broad general knowledge with the opportunity to work in depth on a small number of subjects’ (p37); it involves learning to learn and it offers a ‘passport to lifelong education’ and ‘foundations’ on which to build (p21). It is therefore about both breadth and specialisation and has quite a strong orientation towards the future. It is more about the mastery of learning tools than the acquisition of bodies of knowledge; it is about stimulating intellectual curiosity, sharpening critical faculties and the capacity to reason, developing concentration and memory. Underpinning these capacities is ‘the pleasure that can be derived from understanding knowledge and discovery’.

This seems to us to chime with the kinds of goals that most funders want from community arts projects, but it also fits with what we understand to be an aim of community theatre practitioners. The question following from ‘learning to know’ is of course – what do we expect participants to learn from being involved in community theatre?

(2) Learning to do
‘Learning to do’ relates to formal and informal, social and work experiences; it is defined broadly as acquiring ‘the competence to deal with many situations and work in teams’ (p37). The Delors Report considers it to be ‘closely associated with occupational training’ but the emphasis is also on developing competence, through personal commitment and individual initiative. It is therefore fundamentally about the individual’s skills and dispositions and engagement with the social and economic.

Learning to do is the stuff that we can see happening. Unlike knowing it is probably easier to work out what we expect and want participants in community theatre to do. However, they may well know and do other things. Does the focus on learning to do also then offer us the opportunity to look at participant’s actions and activities in a different way, thinking not simply about what we expect and want, but actually what it is that they are doing?

Both knowing and doing also account for artistic practices and we can imagine them being encompassed by these two pillars.

(3) Learning to live together
The Delors Report puts greater emphasis on learning to live together than the other three pillars of education, proposing that it is the ‘foundation of education’ (p21) upon which the three other pillars stand. The means of learning to live together are identified as ‘developing an understanding of others and their history, traditions and spiritual values’ and appreciating interdependence in order to create ‘a new spirit’ that leads to common projects and the peaceful and intelligent management of conflict (p37).

It recommends that education should adopt a two-pronged approach: ‘From early childhood, it should focus on the discovery of other people… In the second stage of education and in lifelong education, it should encourage involvement in common projects’ (http://www.unesco.org/delors). The emphases in the first stage are on teaching about human diversity, respecting pluralism, recognising the rights of others, encouraging empathy, debate, curiosity and healthy criticism. The second project prong involves ‘unaccustomed forms of action’ that enable people to ‘transcend the routines of their personal lives and attach value to what they have in common’ and so build solidarity and friendship.

The idea of learning to live together seems to encompass a lot of things that community theatre might offer. It is more than simply about team work and making group decisions, more than getting on well with people, more than breaking down barriers, more perhaps even than citizenship. We like the way in which this pillar seems to express something very important about how we might sustain ourselves as a ‘good society’. But is it something that community theatre can accomplish?

(4) Learning to be
The fourth pillar, ‘learning to be’, is about ‘every person’s complete development – mind and body, intelligence, sensitivity, aesthetic appreciation and spirituality’ (http://www.unesco.org/delors/fourpil). It is concerned with self-knowledge, independence, judgement, personal responsibility, developing personality and using talents. This means that education ‘must not disregard any aspect of a person’s potential: memory, reasoning, aesthetic sense, physical capacities and communication skills’ (p37).

Many evaluations that we have read talk about participants increased self-esteem and confidence. Yet the participant statements that are on offer to back these up often seem much more than this. It is as if something has happened during the process that allows participants to have a changed view of who they are and who they might become. We wonder if this pillar is not a more adequate way to come to terms with the sense of personal change – dare we even suggest feelings of empowerment – that at least some community theatre participants describe and demonstrate?

We are interested in hearing your views on this framework. Does it make sense to you? Would it allow you to capture all of the things that you think happen for participants in community theatre? Would it be possible to use this for formative, as opposed to summative, evaluation?

DELORS, J., 1996. Learning. The treasure within. Paris: UNESCO.

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One comment on “is this a possible evaluation framing?

  1. Hey Pat- thanks for this it seems a useful and sensible way of starting to think beyond tired categorisations that tend to dominate evaluation work. I am going to try to use this as a thinking tool in my current work with community radio stations. Will keep you posted. Helen

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