What impact does visiting a cultural venue have on adult learners?

Action Led Research:

We have just been awarded an EmCett grant to use action led research to try and answer the above question.

As tutors on the Digability project we have taken out student groups to many heritage sites and museums. At the end of each visit the groups all declare they have had a fantastic time. They have often visited sites for the first time and enjoyed the new experience. They have enjoyed being out with their fellow students. If we are lucky the weather has been great and they have enjoyed being out in the fresh air. But what have they learnt? What do we mean by ‘learnt’? Is it fulfilling a SMART learning objective for the lesson e.g ‘ the learner can name 3 features of a castle’ or is it that heritage sites are accessible and a place to enjoy and discover new things? Is one more valid than the other and how do measure the impact of ‘enjoyment’ on the learner? We are currently looking at the longitudinal impact of visiting a cultural sites. What do students remember of the visit 6 months or a year later? Did it lead them into further study? Did it inspire them to revisit the site or other similar sites? Has the visit had any impact on their well being? Did it inspired them to take up a new hobby such as art or photography?

If you have visited a cultural site in the last six months what was the impact on you? Is it possible to record impact? Is that impact long term? What questions would you ask of your students or visitors?

We look forward to seeing some of your responses.


4 responses to “What impact does visiting a cultural venue have on adult learners?

  1. Hi Rob,

    Thank you for sharing your post and research project.

    I am currently Vice-Chair of the Association for Heritage Interpretation – the professional body for heritage interpreters in the UK. Please have a look at http://www.ahi.org.uk.

    While we are not concerned with formal learning as such, there is a clear and strong crossover with the practice of heritage interpretation. Are you planning to take groups to heritage sites and analyse the aspects you flag in your post both during, immediately after and 6 months after the visit? Are you solely concerned with groups visiting as part of a formal educational visit or groups and individuals who visit for leisure?

    We would find great benefit in research-led results which inform on the nature of the interpretive experience and the longer-term impact on retention of key interpretive messages.

    We should be able to help to promote your research through our communication networks with members and to publish a synthesis of results.

    I would be keen to discuss whether there is the opportunity for a more structured involvement so that we can help your project in some way and gain robust research results that may inform heritage interpreters develop better-tailored interpretation.


    • Thanks for your reply.

      As you rightly say there is indeed a crossover as it is the exciting visits where interpretation meets the needs of the students/visitors that tends to remain in people’s minds.

      The aim of the current research is to look at how we assess impact immediately after and up to 6 months after the event. We have found everyone usually has a ‘lovely’ time but it is working out the best way to capture the long term impacts we are interested in.

      In our brief initial research we have also realized that capturing people’s perceptions of what it might be like before the visit is also important so that we can measure any impact. Although focusing on the chosen groups from 2012-2013 this is more a note for the future to improve our practice.

      Thinking about your members how often do they ask visiting groups what their perceptions of the visit will be before the visit? Do they discuss with group leaders the needs of the visiting group?

      We decided to use Digability groups from 2012-13 and Out of the Box groups (a small pot of money within the WEA for groups who would like to use a cultural venue to enhance learning as a one off trip) as we can easily access this data in a short space of time but I can see the value of tapping into your network as well to give us a wider sample.

      Because the grant is so small and we have limited time I think it needs to remain focused on formal education but if we are successful perhaps we could look into the possibility of further research later on other user groups.

      Do you think a questionnaire would be the most effective way of asking for comments. Would your interpreters be able to forward to user groups for comment?

      If I designed a “survey Monkey’ type survey that could be circulated in the next couple of weeks would that work?

      Let me know your thoughts.

      We have thought that there might be two questionnaires we use for the groups we are targeting.
      1) Students – what impact has it had on them continuing to study, what they have remembered, inspired them to do something new after the visit or share the experience with others
      2) The tutors – why have they chose to use a cultural venue/heritage site as part of their course? What did they hope the students would gain? Would they use the venue again and why. We were also thinking of sending out to tutors who never leave the classroom to find out why- cost, risk assessments, can’t make links across the curriculum.

      As this grant is designed to be practitioner led and help to improve models of best practice I am really excited that you can see possibilities of sharing and disseminating it to your members.

  2. This looks a really interesting project Rob – I often take Adult Learners and groups out to sites / museums, etc and the impact of this and learning experience is elevated to a level above learning about the site in a classroom.

    A couple of years ago, I led an Adult Education community evaluation of five
    heritage / archaeology museums in Derbyshire, and the results of this were really interesting. They reflected an evaluation conducted by the visitors to the site (in the form of the group) and gave a different angle of feedback.

    I know its slightly different to what you are looking at, but you may find it a
    useful resource, so here is the link for the report:


    Bill – maybe this is also something that ties in with your work, and if so feel free to use the material.

    Thanks, Matt Beresford (MBArchaeology)


    • Thank you for sharing your evaluation report with us. It is a really valuable exercise to get students themselves to evaluate the places they visit. Since we met with you last october and initially discussed this it has helped us to think about encouraging the students to think more about the museum or site we are visiting and try and pinpoint what they enjoyed/ liked about the way the site/museum is presented. The challenge for many of our students and us is finding the words or a to method to articulate this other than “I liked it”, ” It was good”. “Because” is a big conceptual leap for some of the students we work with but hopefully through this work we will be able improve how we help our students to answer this.

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