This was a timely question for me as I’ve been thinking about the GLO’s recently. (For readers outside the UK, these mysterious acronyms and where they come from are explained here: http://www.inspiringlearningforall.gov.uk/default.aspx?flash=true ). Peta’s question leads me to lots more of my own, although I’m not sure I’ve answered her question which is why I’ve only posted this on my blog and not replied to the GEM list:
Do you need to know the curators’ predicted outcomes to evaluate an exhibition’s effectiveness? Can you not start an evaluation by asking the learner’s (or teacher’s) desired outcomes?
What if the organiser’s predictions were flawed or incomplete?
What if they intended only to achieve one of the GLO’s, for example ‘Enjoyment, Inspiration, Creativity’, believing that this is the best way to encourage further learning?
Do exhibitions that are designed for learning always provide better learning experiences than exhibitions designed for confusion or beauty?
An experience of an exhibition, especially one that tours, varies according to many factors beyond its original design. Learning in exhibitions happens not just through the contents, but also through any extra mediation and dialogue that is brought to it, and the dispositions of the visitors. Evaluation should be learner-centred, focused on understanding how visitors have changed through their whole experience, including unpredictable outcomes. Evaluation exercises are about control and improvement. If you can’t control the design of the exhibition you need to use the evaluation to inform other aspects that you can apply in future. If a touring exhibition seems to have been planned without much consideration for any of the GLO’s except ‘knowledge’ and perhaps ‘skills’ then rather than turn down what might have fascinating objects or potential for interpretation, you could ask what you need to add to draw the other GLO’s out.
ILFA is useful as an advocacy tool because it acknowledges that museum learning is not just about ‘information transfer’ but about experiences that create change in people, allow them to brush against new ideas or practices, and develop a disposition towards curiosity and critical thinking. This change is best achieved through experiences that promote ‘enjoyment, inspiration, creativity’ (GLO4). The good thing about the GLOs, that they include recognition of the soft elements (creativity, values, progression), is also its problem when it comes to be used systematically. A GLO-based evaluation includes both looking for the dispositions for gaining skills and knowledge (catalysts for learning), and looking for the things that can be known or done through a museum learning experience (outcomes). It is true that dispositions such as ‘inspiration’ can linger or be recalled and applied again to future learning, so they are outcomes too. This mix of catalysts and ‘knowings’ would not be so problematic if each GLO were more clearly defined.
The GLO’s are overlapping, with each containing diverse elements. For example, the GLO2 ‘Skills’ can include thinking, crafting, playing and so on, overlapping with the GLO’s that include creativity, knowledge and action. The GLO1 ‘knowledge and understanding’ could be defined as simple factual input or it could be seen more broadly as building patterns of meaning and forming personal interpretations, which is the same as GLO3 ‘Values and Attitudes’.
So, more questions: Is the GLO system adaptable? Might the GLO’s be better categorised in ways that relate better to the learning process? Is it still possible to measure museum learning if you focus on the qualities of your offer rather than mixing this with testing what people have learned? This is my first attempt to think of an alternative set of GLO’s that preserves the basic value of the ILFA system:
- Do we make visitors feel comfortable and welcome, ready for a challenge?
- Is there content that is relaxing, pleasing, beautiful, funny…?
Inspiring visitors to gain knowledge:
- Do the exhibits stimulate curiosity (questions, mysteries)?
- Is the narrative engaging? Or, is the information coherent?
Active and kinaesthetic learning:
- Do the exhibits provide opportunities for visitors to touch and make things, to listen, and perhaps use taste and smell?
- Is there a chance to develop skills as well as gain facts?
- Are there opportunities to experiment and invent new things, and think from different angles?
- Is this creativity modelled in the making of the exhibition and the nature of its contents?
- Is the exhibition accessible for visitors with learning, sensory or physical disabilities?
- Do the exhibits broaden people’s horizons (into the past, the future, the wider world, into ethics, into other minds, into other disciplines, technologies and complex systems)?
- Do we help them make sense of this complexity?
- Have we shown some questions that still need answering?
- Are there ‘calls to action’ for future learning or practice?
- Have we provided resources for future learning?
On Wednesday night I went to an event run by Venu Dhupa at the Hayward Gallery. It’s empty of art, waiting for Antony Gormley, and Venu is using the space for the first events of a Creative Innovation unit at the South Bank Centre. The idea is to explore how the South Bank can be a world cultural centre and how culture can be engaged in social, environmental and scientific affairs. The event staged three presentations by art projects that could change the world.
The second was Simon Elliott from ‘Aah’ about The Hill. www.ahh.uk.com See the image here. We’ve helped Simon with his communications and learning plans so were very chuffed with his succinct presentation. Simon has a grand scheme, which has delighted the Olympics committee, as it delights everyone he describes it to. The idea is to build an attraction inside a green hill on Potter’s Fields next to Tower Bridge. This will be the world’s first gallery of installation. The installations will be created by technologists and artists from the visual arts, digital arts, theatre, community and street arts, film and beyond. The building will also include an amazing slow food restaurant and free facilities on its green outsides. Initial concept designs have been produced by Catherine Findlay of Ushida Findlay. (A report in Building Design here: http://www.bdonline.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=426&storycode=3085251&c=2&encCode=00000000012eafab )
The final presentation was Aluna, a tide-powered moon clock. The presentation was very compelling as it is a fairly simple and beautiful idea, linked to symbolism and science that matters. I was pleased to hear that the tidal electricity generated to power its LED lighting will be sold back to the National Grid. However, the design for the sculpture is really not as beautiful as it could be. It is a more or less a thing, and yet as a thing it doesn’t sing. It is described as a ‘beacon for a sustainable future’ but I’m not certain that it is. http://www.alunatime.org/
As for the question, which idea would change the world, it’s a toss-up between the LIFT New Parliament and The Hill. Both can change the world because they will provide charged experiential spaces for extraordinary dialogue about what really matters. I support Simon Elliott’s vision and would love to see it happen. But also I like LIFT’s project because it is so portable and light-on-the-ground, and because it will tour the world to reach so many people. The evening ended with the two organisations agreeing to work together, so let’s see what happens.
The message was really less about the value of culture and more about the value of a mixed economy to fund culture. He talked about the way the Government has nurtured a mix of the American model (keep culture private) and the European model (public subsidy), enabling a successful balance between excellence and populism. He gave examples of how this balance and mix means that excellence can become popular and popular culture can be good quality.
It was in part a celebration of how Government funding has supported a great widening of access, a boost for arts education and an embrace of cultural diversity. The director of Tyne & Wear museums said later that the Renaissance in the Regions funding had enabled a 7000% increase in its outreach activities! The value of culture was mainly ascribed to two features: a) projecting a cutting-edge and creative face to the outside world, helping to make London the creative capital of the world, attract tourists and win the Olympiad and b) ‘achieving what Government finds difficult’ – social cohesion through explorations of identity politics. You might argue that the Cultural sector achieves the latter because it pays less heed to territorial boundaries. People who work in the arts don’t think of ‘us’ facing an ‘outside world’ so it can often feel strange when Government initiatives or policies ask you to ‘promote the face of Britain’ or ‘define our national heritage’.
The speech was also a celebration of the transformation of the cultural sector into the cultural industries. There was a suggestion that we need to do more to imaginatively engage private funders, not so much in the spirit of Corporate Social Responsibility sponsorship, more as an investment deal. The suggestion was neatly complemented with references to the ‘audacious leaps of imagination’ and risk-taking that us cultural types are capable of. Dame Vivien Duffield said that Blair had not paid enough tribute to private sponsors, even though he had emphasised private funding. She may be right in that private funders are not always motivated as venture capitalists, and they may prefer tributes and evidence of public good over hard returns and a percentage stake. The chair of Culture South East said that they had tried to get venture capital for the cultural economy but struggled because financiers said that there was not enough potential for knowledge transfer. The director of Visiting Arts made a useful point that more could be done to unlock funding from other Government sources, not just private funders, for example where the arts can enrich intercultural dialogue.