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Evaluating education programmes

Posted on Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

It’s not easy to measure the impact of your education initiative. There is often a tricky balance to be achieved between the resource or budget you put in to evaluation and the level of output you want.

On behalf of the The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), we recently undertook a programme of research to measure the success of their latest ‘What the Dickens?’ education campaign. The campaign used the bicentenary of Charles Dickens’s birth to communicate the concepts of ‘inspiration’ and ‘plagiarism’ to pupils and to start a change in attitudes and behaviours. So did it work?

From a research perspective, these are quite ephemeral concepts to identify and measure so the main challenge we faced was crafting an approach that would accurately record and measure changes in pupils’ attitudes and behaviours. The other main concern was ensuring our programme didn’t overly impact pupils – conducted as it was towards the end of the summer term when schedules are dominated by exams. And all on a tight evaluation budget.

As a starting point we looked at the numbers of teachers using the campaign (via web analytics) and also what teachers and pupils thought of it. More importantly, using our educational and survey design expertise, we were able to craft a survey that both captured the essence of these concepts in a manner that pupils could quickly grasp and provided them with an opportunity to express this understanding.

We were then able to accurately show how attitudes and behaviours have changed as a result. Using the carefully crafted baseline survey before the programme started to set the benchmark, the post-programme survey identified what had changed. We were able to show its real impact in helping students to think about the creative process and the inherent value in their work.

There was a significant increase (12%) in the recognition of the importance of copyright largely driven by those in strong agreement. There was also a significant increase in understanding (17%) that those who are responsible for creating creative content including books, music and online content (which is of increasing importance in this social networking age) should be recognised and respected. As one pupil put it, “if they don’t get credit for anything they have written or created it’s just unfair…it might even put people off sharing their creativity with the rest of the world”.

As a result of the research that proved the campaign’s success, the ALCS is calling on the Government and internet service providers to improve the level of copyright education in schools. And after the success of the 2012 campaign, the new year will see a new cohort of pupils learn about the importance of copyright protection and protecting creative output.

By Mike Holland, Head of Research