Understanding the impact of the work we support and deliver is important in ensuring we reach the people that find themselves most disenfranchised from physics and the opportunities that can open up around the subject.
Capturing impact has been developed to help anyone working in physics education and outreach with evaluating their activities. It includes a series of tools to help evaluate different aspects of activities and some pointers on analysis and ethics.
The toolkit has been devised, in consultation with the Trust, by Public Engagement and Involvement Consultant, Dr Charlotte Thorley – who has worked with the Ogden network of outreach officers to test and refine the suggested evaluation models and approaches. Charlotte’s top tips? “Keep it simple,” says Charlotte. “Start thinking about your evaluation when you first start thinking about the event and be realistic about what information you can gather and what you can usefully do with it. By asking critical questions, early in the planning process, about why you are doing something will ensure a better experience for everyone involved, with outcomes and impact that can be more easily measured and understood,” concludes Charlotte.
Ogden Chief Executive, Clare Harvey agrees. “We don’t want the evaluation process to be a burden to those involved, either participants or organisers, but we do need to understand the impact of different activities so we can all better ensure our activities can be most effective and reach those who will most benefit.
“We have built our evaluation models around the theories of science capital, applied to physics” adds Clare. “We want to understand how activities can enhance how a young person feels about physics and physics careers. Our aim is to support young people in developing their physics identity, to become confident in their abilities in physics and also in their sense of belonging in physics,” concludes Clare.
By considering evaluation in the initial planning process, the impact of activities will be better able to affect and to demonstrate change. With constant consideration for resources (financial and time) it is important that the efforts made in providing physics activities are well directed and understood.
Although the initial toolkit concept was developed to help the Trust evaluate its programmes and the impact of the activities it funds, the top tips, models and suggested approaches to evaluation can be applied by anyone working in science outreach.