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.



Toward a more perfect pie chart

In honor of Pi Day (3.14), I present this pie chart from a report that I did for PBS Kids back in 2013.  Rather than creating three different charts, I sought to visually represent three sets of key participant demographic data in one, visually appealing chart.

In addition to layering three pie chart rings together into one chart, I also toyed with the image fill feature as an alternative to a color fill as a way to convey information without having to add additional text to the chart.  It was fun (and challenging) to try to find images that could convey location information at-a-glance. I think the end result is also more visually appealing with those images included.

I’d be the first to say that this chart isn’t perfect, and I know there are folks who disapprove of pie charts in general, but I think this chart is able to communicate some basic information about our participants fairly clearly and concisely – and in a visually appealing way. Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 11.17.14 AM

What does curiosity sound like?

RL-coverWhat does curiosity sound like? If that question can be answered, I think it probably sounds a lot like Radiolab. This belief stems from my own experiences listening to the program as an audience member, but has also grown through my recent experiences evaluating the program as part of a grant initiative.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to present some of our evaluation findings to attendees at the Digital Media Conference in Los Angeles. As part of that presentation, I explored some of the features of Radiolab that facilitate curiosity and attract audiences filled with curious listeners.

Click here to download my presentation. To read the whole evaluation report, visit or click here.

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VSA Conference Recap

The Visitor Studies Association Conference, held in Albuquerque in July of 2014, presented a unique opportunity for the field to reflect and identify its past accomplishments as well as future directions for growth.

Here’s a link to my notes from the conference

In addition to getting to attend several great sessions, I also participated in three sessions at the conferences. Links to each of those presentations are included below.

First up, I participated as part of a panel on consultant-institution partnerships along with Sharisse Butler and Jessica Luke. In planning for the session we worked toward developing a continuum of partnerships that ranged from the consultant being more external to those where the consultant takes on a greater and more integral role within the institution. We also explored the continuum of sustained impacts, ranging from one-off projects or sessions, to relationships or resources that can help to build capacity over longer periods of time. I shared examples from my work with the American Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian – the former being a mix of a one-off project that had a more limited long-term capacity-building component, and the later being a one-time training session that also sought to develop a more lasting set of resources that could be accessed by staff long after the workshop sessions themselves had concluded. Discussion during the session was quite provocative and it was suggested that we might sometimes label something as “participatory” or “collaborative” to put a more positive spin on it when there’s not enough money or time for a team of professional evaluators to do all the data collection or analysis. Someone also questioned why we, as evaluators, are somewhat unique in our desire to build evaluation capacity in others – exhibit developers aren’t seeking to develop exhibition design skills in others. We wouldn’t expect evaluators to step in and lead tours or run educational programs at museums, so why do we expect or seek to train other museum professionals to conduct evaluations? While I found the conversation to be provocative, I still lean toward there being value in building evaluative capacity as a way to create buy-in to the process and a deeper understanding of subsequent outcomes.

Presentation Info/Link: Consultant-Institution Partnerships for Strengthening Evaluation Capacity, Thursday July 17th (Co-Presentation with Sharisse Butler and Jessica Luke):

Next up, I facilitated a panel with Beverly Serrell, Steve Yalowitz and Camellia Sanford – three veteran researchers who had experiences doing visitor observation studies (and other types of data collection) with new digital technology as well as more traditional methods, usually involving pen and paper. A series of questions were posed to each panelist ahead of time, and the primary objective of the session was to compare and contrast the relative strengths and weaknesses of different methodological/technological approaches to data collection. This was a fun session for me because my work was more or less done after pulling everyone’s information into the presentation and I got to sit back and enjoy the conversation while playing the role of time-keeper and discussant.

Comparing and Contrasting Digital and Paper-Based Modes of Visitor Observation, Friday July 18th (Co Presented with Beverly Serrell, Steve Yalowitz and Camellia Sanford):

Lastly, I co-presented along with Ruth Cohen about some of the work we’ve been doing to evaluate adult learning programs at the American Museum of Natural History. In the presentation Ruth shared an overview of the Museums’ efforts to broaden and enrich its adult learning offerings – and I shared findings from our past and present efforts to learn more about what adults want, like, and benefit most from in terms of adult learning programs.

Using Evaluation to Develop New Adult Learning Approaches in Museums, Friday July 18th (Co Presented with Ruth Cohen, AMNH):

A picture is worth a thousand words

Embed from Getty Images

I was delighted to learn that the Getty has made millions of its images available to freely embed online (with auto-generated attribution info) for non-commercial purposes. How convenient and cool!

Visit to take a look at what’s available. Then use the embed button that looks like this: < >  to get a link that you can copy and paste online.

Digital Media and Learning For Youth

In keeping with the trend of youth and media, I wanted to share another presentation that focused on youth and media. In 2010 I presented with my colleague, Kristin Bass, on evaluation techniques and findings related to youth learning and digital media at the American Evaluation Association Conference. This presentation provided an opportunity for both of us to talk about recent evaluations that provided insights into how youth used technology, what they learn from it, and how these things could be evaluated in different ways.

Bass, K. and Borland, J. (2010) Digital Media and Learning for Youth: What do they know, when do they know it, how do we evaluate it?   A presentation at the American Evaluation Association Conference in San Antonio, TX.