EvalFest (EF) partners Karen Peterman, Jane Robertson, and Kim Kiesewetter headed to the Motor City in July for the 2019 Annual Meeting of the Visitor Studies Association (VSA) where they participated in two different sessions as presenters. The VSA conference was held at the lovely Westin Book Cadillac Hotel in downtown and had a theme around “Ways of Knowing.”

The first EF session, “Data Collection, Data Management, Data Analysis, Oh My” was held on Thursday morning, and included a hands-on opportunity for people to learn about and engage with the EvalFest resources hosted on the www.evalfest.org website. The session began with participants completing a tailored Persona Worksheet before a quick run-through of what EvalFest is and the how and the why of the resources developed as a part of the project. This was followed by breakout sessions on data collection, data management, data analysis, and data visualization resources in smaller groups with one of the session facilitators. At the end, participants were asked to share what they liked, didn’t like, and how useful or applicable these resources might be to the broader informal learning community. It was encouraging to see colleagues from a variety of institutions (think zoos, museums, etc.) excited about the resources and come to a general consensus that the EF resources could be useful in a wide variety of contexts. Thanks, too, to Alexis Clark for coming out to support the team during this session!

On Friday, Karen joined Amy Grack Nelson and Alex Lussenhop for a panel discussion on shared measures for evaluation of informal learning. This panel included three examples from a recent article on the use of shared measures in informal learning contexts (Grack Nelson et al., 2019). Instead of presenting EvalFest products (like those featured in the hands-on session), the panel focused on the process that the EvalFest project has used to create shared measures. The specific example from the article and the panel focused on the collaboration with Amy Grack Nelson and Mac Cannady to test whether and how the ActLab Engagement Survey worked well as a measure of festival Expo booths. Karen also shared the benefits of using shared measures, with a focus on recent publications that were made possible by the use of this approach and the contributions of our EvalFest partners over the past four years.

The VSA conference was an enriching experience – the team got to learn from other colleagues in the visitor studies sphere while sharing about various aspects of the EF project. Getting to spend time in the Motor City wasn’t too bad, either!


Kim Kiesewetterworks as a Research Assistant on the EvalFest project.