Formative Evaluation of Accessible Programming

This Guide to Conducting Formative Evaluation on Accessible Programming was created by Museum of Science, Boston and Art Beyond Sight. It is a part of ABS’s multi-site museum accessibility study. 

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What is the purpose of this guide and these tools?

This guide and the accompanying formative evaluation tools are designed to assist museum educators in gathering information that will help their art and history museum programs become more accessible. This guide is intended to help museum educators:

• Solicit feedback from program participants who are blind or have low vision (B/LV)

• Obtain feedback from general visitors who participate in your programs that are designed to be more inclusive

• Capture information regarding overall inclusion and accessibility from visitors who identify as having a disability other than vision loss

Since the main purpose of this guide is to help museums improve their programming for people who are blind or have low vision, being able to address issues regarding other groups who may be underrepresented at your museum, such as gauging visitors’ feelings of cultural or linguistic inclusion, would require a different set of questions. For example, this guide will not help you to solicit the feedback you may need when making decisions about bilingual programming because it does not include questions regarding cultural awareness or bilingual communication. Each section of this guide walks you through the various steps you should think about when collecting and analyzing feedback from attendees and museum professionals involved in your program’s facilitation. These tools are part of a formative evaluation process (defined in more detail in the next section) and intended to be used during a program’s development or when you are considering making changes. Since these tools are formative in nature, they focus on learning about how particular aspects of your museum program could be improved or made more inclusive for visitors who are B/LV. The questions in the accompanying Question Bank were created to help institutions better understand:

• How to increase visitors’ interest or enjoyment around an activity or program;

• What you can do to make sure visitors who are B/LV feel comfortable and welcome during programs;

• Which types of materials could be helpful before, during, and after a program;

• How visitors who are B/LV react to the balance of content and engagement;

• How you can better market the program; and

• What staff members and/or docents think could be improved.

The Question Bank connected with this guide suggests several types of survey and interview questions and explains the different kinds of feedback you might get when asking these particular questions. Many of these questions have proven effective in gathering feedback from visitors who are B/LV in science museums. Throughout this guide, look for instructions and tips on how to select the types of questions that will provide you with the most useful answers. Example instruments (e.g. surveys and interviews) near the end of this guide provide illustrations of what a complete instrument might look like, including useful introductory language. The hope is that this guide, accompanying questions, and example instruments will be useful for gathering feedback from visitors who are B/LV by the museums involved in Art Beyond Sights’ Multi-Site Museum Programmatic Accessibility Project.


This is an abbreviated guide to conducting formative evaluation with B/LV visitors. In creating this guide, we drew upon the resources listed below. For more information about formative evaluation and how to analyze data, these would be helpful points of reference.

Diamond, J. (1999). Practical evaluation guide: Tools for museums & other informal educational settings. Lanham: AltaMira Press.

Grack Nelson, A. (2010). Survey Design Tips. Boston: Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network.

Pattison, S., Cohn, S., & Kollmann, L. (2013). Team-based inquiry: practical guide for using evaluation to improve informal education experiences. Retrieved from:

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