How can we measure and evidence the health and well-being benefits of participation in heritage activity?

The Digability project has wider implications than just developing or improving an individual’s archaeological or historical knowledge. We feel that archaeology/heritage is a fantastic vehicle for developing our students’ sense of self and improving their transferable skills, as well as their health and well-being. We have found many of our students have improved their communication skills and confidence as a result of participating in the project. Our students have particularly thrived in a learning environment where they are encouraged to voice their opinions. All our students feedback positively and very personally about the impact the project has had on them and their health and well-being, but it is hard to measure these apart from through quotes.

The capture of this data is becoming more and more important as we all seek to justify our funding to those outside the heritage industry.

At the recent WEA conference in Cambridge we learnt of projects working with refugees who use historical sites and museums as a way of introducing immigrants to Britain, promoting discussion and language development in addition to giving navigational landmarks around a large city such as Glasgow.

We would love to hear if anyone has managed to turn these quotes into quantifiable data or if you have found innovative ways of capturing health and well-being benefits. What questions should be asked? Often when presented with a questionnaire at the beginning of a course students are a bit baffled by what they should put down for questions such as ‘What is your health like?’, so it is hard to formulate a measure of development over the course as there is no starting point recorded. Can we capture data only at the end of the course with questions such as ‘Has your health improved?’

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6 responses to “How can we measure and evidence the health and well-being benefits of participation in heritage activity?

  1. Clearly qualitative evidence is more difficult to use, but here is a recent comment from a community group leader who has been involved with Digability. In good social research tradition I have changed names:

    There is no substitute for active participation and a rewarding part of today was seeing Rose being an active group member and getting involved in the daubing. She has in fact rung me tonight telling me how much she enjoyed it asking what are we doing next.

    The other positive is Jonathan his communication skills have continued to develop on this archaeology course.

  2. Dannielle Wibberley

    My name is Dannielle and I work for a not for profit organisation. We work with a large number of adults and children with learning disabilities. I am currently looking into evidencing what we do also! we work creatively and I have stumbled across a resource called ‘Outcomes Star’ I have found it very useful. The tool is a fantastic way to collect qualitative data, I have found that quotes are just not enough, especially when our work is with people who are non verbal, where self expression is made in so many different ways.
    Hope you find the tool useful.

  3. Many thanks for this suggestion, Dannielle – do you have a link for Outcomes Star?

  4. Our project in Selby with the Tuesday Time Team of adults with L/D has shown a considerable engagement by the students. In particular, one lady with an aggressive personality has shown a remarkable aptitude and a softening of her relationships with fellow students and tutors. It has been possible to see her confidence and self esteem gathering pace as indeed it has with all the students.

  5. Thanks Brian – clearly there are many benefits to health and well-being which can provide good qualitative evidence. This kind of information is extremely valuable to educationalists. The challenge is to be able to demonstrate these positive impacts in quantitative terms, which is what funders and ultimately the government is looking for. It rankles – but this is the world we live in!

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