OCF Week: Caitlin Ruffenach and Kim Leonard on Lessons learned through the Oregon Arts Education Snapshot

We are Caitlin Ruffenach, Researcher, and Kim Leonard, Senior Evaluation Officer, from The Oregon Community Foundation (OCF). Among other things, we are working on an evaluation of the Studio to School Initiative at OCF, which focuses on the development of sustainable arts education programs through partnerships between arts organizations and schools.

This past summer, in collaboration with the Oregon Arts Commission, we conducted a survey of arts organizations in Oregon in an effort to learn about the arts education programming they provide, often in concert with what is available more directly through the school system.

The purpose of this survey was to help the Foundation understand how the grantees of its Studio to School Initiative fit into the broader arts education landscape in Oregon. We hope the survey results will also serve as a resource for grantees, funders, and other stakeholders to understand and identify programs delivering arts education throughout the state.

Lesson Learned: To ensure we would have the most useful information possible, our survey design process included several noteworthy steps:

  1. We started with existing data; by gathering information about organizations who had received funding in arts education in Oregon in the past we were able to target our efforts to recruit respondents.
  2. We consulted with others who have done similar surveys to learn from their successes and challenges;
  3. We paid close attention to survey question wording to ensure that we were focusing as tightly on what was measurable by survey as possible; and
  4. We vetted our early findings with arts education stakeholders.

Hot Tip: A collaborative, inclusive survey design process can result in better survey tools. We used a small, informal advisory group throughout the process that included members who had conducted similar surveys and representatives of our target respondent group. They helped with question wording, as well as with identifying a small survey pilot.

Hot Tip: Vetting preliminary findings with stakeholders is fun and helps support evaluation use. We took advantage of an existing gathering of arts stakeholders in Oregon to share and workshop our initial findings. We used a data placemat, complete with re-useable stickers, to slowly reveal the findings. We then engaged the attendees in discussions about how the findings did or didn’t resonate with their experiences. What we learned during this gathering is reflected in our final report.

Resources: We are not the first to try a more inclusive process both in developing our survey tool and in vetting/interpreting the results! Check out the previous aea365 post about participatory data analysis. And check out the Innovation Network’s slide deck on Data Placemats for more information about that particular tool.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Oregon Community Foundation (OCF) week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from OCF team members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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