IRB deregulation on the horizon!

At long last, we can see some new Human Subjects guidelines/regulations on the horizon! An article entitled “Long-Sought Research Deregulation Is Upon Us. Don’t Squander the Moment,” recently appearing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, provides more info on the upcoming changes:

In the meantime (i.e., til January 2018), if you are doing work with Human Subjects and/or have been asked to get an IRB review – this webinar may be of interest:

“Surviving the IRB Process” (part of a professional development partnership between VSA and ASTC)

The power of posters!


When I saw this article come through my feed this morning I said “yes, yes, and more yes!”:

Posters – They’re Not Just for Conferences Anymore!

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Having written many a 50+ page report only to have it go un-read, and therefore ultimately unused, I’ve become a firm believer in the power of shorter-format reporting – including slidedeck reports, posters and infographic summaries. I agree with the following statement by Stephanie’s guest host, Kylie Hutchinson, “An effectively designed poster can be very ‘sticky’ compared to other forms of reporting. While a fifty-page report is sitting on a shelf somewhere collecting dust, a poster can hang around an organization’s lunch room or hallway for a long time, continuing to engage stakeholders and disseminate your key messages.”

However, don’t rush off thinking “great, I’ll save so much time if I don’t have to write a long report!” Creating effective short-format reports can often take just as much time as a longer report. The process of curation is time consuming, as are efforts to craft visual components that have an anesthetic appeal, but can also effectively communicate desired information. Deciding to go with a short format report likely won’t save you time/money, but definitely might be a better allocation of those resources if your stakeholders agree that it would be an effective way to communicate findings to them.

I’m happy with the way my AERA poster turned out, but sadly I’m not able to travel to San Antonio to present due to a scheduling conflict. Thankfully my colleague Julia has kindly agreed to fill in. You can stop by to see her and all the other great presenters in a poster panel about different types of observational methods in informal learning spaces– organized by Aaron Price–from 10:35a-12:05 on Saturday, April 29th in room 221 D (meeting room level) .


I used a template from: to create this poster, in about an hour.

Here are a few other examples of “short reports” that we’ve created over the past few years. The first was designed to be a summary of online usage statistics for a program/product that we were evaluating.  The second is an example of a summary of findings from an online professional development session that we evaluated.


Principles of Audience Research and Evaluation

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Elee kicks things off for our evaluation workshop – April 19, 2017

I was so thrilled to co-present a workshop today at the National Council on Public History’s annual conference/meeting in Indianapolis along with VSA, Vice President for Professional Development, Elee Wood.

Our 4-hour workshop, entitled Principles of Audience Research and Evaluation in Public History: Purpose, Process and Implementation, covered background information and basic processes for doing evaluation.

We are hoping to develop a version of this presentation that can be shared at conferences that would be of interest to people seeking to learn more about how to study visitors and do evaluation in visitor-oriented settings. So stay tuned for opportunities to take the workshop at a conference coming to a town near you!

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Click here for a link to the presentation.

Upcoming visitor studies training opportunities

I’m really excited to announce a couple professional development opportunities that I’ve been helping to organize on behalf of the Visitor Studies Association, in my capacity as chair of the professional development Association.

The first is a webinar on April 27th featuring presenter, Beverly Serrell–the woman who literally wrote the book on Tracking and Timing as a method for studying visitors in exhibits. This is part of a series of professional development opportunities that VSA is co-hosting with ASTC:
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Registration link:

The other event is the 2017 VSA conference in Columbus Ohio.  We’ve got a lot of great Pre-conference workshops planned so be sure to check out all of these great PD opportunities as well:

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Election-themed babyshower

This week we celebrated the upcoming arrival of Alison’s baby with an election-themed baby shower. With a due-date near the US elections in November, this seemed like a fun way to forego traditional pastels for some good old red, white, and blue! Alison actually inspired this theme when she sent an election themed package to let us know that she was expecting. Congrats Alison – we can’t wait to meet baby Allen!

The Data Revolution

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This year’s theme for the Visitor Studies Conference–playing on the historic revolutions that took place in Boston, where this year’s conference was held–was “The Data Revolution.”  There were an impressive number of presentations and workshops that focused on data and a variety of approaches to data analysis.  As always, I’m happy to share out my conference notes, as well as link to my presentation (along with co-presenters Claire Quimby and Elee Wood) “How to Keep from Drowning in Data.”  Lastly, I hosted a dining discussion on the topic of “Cool New Tools, Tips, and Tricks for Evaluation.”

Below (an example from my notes): a scattergram that plots several data points from different exhibits based on Sweep Rate Index (SRI) and the Percentage of Diligent Visitors (%DV)


Less is more

Big is out – and tiny is in!


If you haven’t been hiding under a rock recently, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard of the tiny house movement. This trend toward small and ultra-small houses has been gaining momentum worldwide as more and more people have been seeking simple and affordable housing options. One of the underlying reasons is that people have embraced the notion that having more stuff doesn’t necessarily make people happier.  Perhaps the same can be said of reports.  Over the course of my career as an evaluator, I’ve written many reports that have exceeded 100 pages – but rather than being the useful resources that we hope they will be for our clients, they often become glorified bookends. Maybe less is more where reports are concerned as well.

Can we go from this:


to this:



Okay, not literally tiny reports.  But seriously, I’ve been sensing a growing interest in and demand for tiny reports – i.e., reports that total less than 20 pages and take less than a half hour to read – Reports that give readers a good sense of the key findings without inundating them in every detail of an extensive study – Reports are far more likely to be read, shared, and referenced than their lengthier counterparts.

I’m not sure that all clients/evaluation stakeholders are ready to embrace the notion that less is more – and that might be the first challenge: i.e., getting the primary audience to see how a shorter report might be  ultimately worth a great deal more than a much longer/more comprehensive report.  But an equally daunting challenge, once you’ve gained buy-in for the idea of producing a tiny report, is the fact that its not always easier to write less.  Presenting information in the most succinct/elegant way possible can actually be far more time consuming and mentally taxing than mindlessly spewing out every single finding. Despite these challenges, however, I’d argue that the resulting use of a tiny report should be the driving factor in advocating for and adopting the move toward shorter reports in contrast to longer more burdensome reporting formats.  After all, a great report is only truly great if it gets read and used – no matter its size.