Evaluation and Impact

Looking at the different ways in which we can tell whether an activity, project, or structure has an impact, effect, or benefit.

Evaluation and Impact

The temptation of 'impact'

The word impact is an attractive one for advocates and policy-makers in any sector. As a metaphor it connotes the strong, visible and immediate effects of one object hitting another. Although it is widely employed in education, its usage should be regarded warily, particularly in the arts and humanities subjects. Learning in these subjects is rarely either visible or immediate, and there are many different ways of assessing the ‘strength’ of a learning outcome, depending on the purposes of the assessment.

Educational philosophies over the past two decades have favoured the production of ‘hard’, quantitative information about education, particularly in the context of increasing quantities of numeric data on educational outcomes in 30 countries from the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

Cary Bazalgette

Cary Bazalgette, leading film education thinker and writer, considered the ‘impact question’ in 2009 in a survey of the research into moving image education for national screen agency for Scotland, Scottish Screen (since absorbed into Creative Scotland). She warns clearly against the temptation to imagine that any education activity can work as a ‘magic bullet’: ie, a solution to a problem that works easily, in every context.

Dylan Wiliam

As another education researcher, Dylan Wiliam, observes ‘In education everything works somewhere, and nothing works everywhere.’ This creates a problem for teachers, policy makers, educators in film: we are all under pressure to ‘prove’ the value of film, in a competitive education environment. Why should government spend money on film education, when it could invest in sports, citizenship, financial, or any other type of education?

In Defining Film Education we looked at the rationales for film education and the arguments we can use to promote it. But proving the value of film is challenging, and one might also say unreasonable, when many other activities are assumed to be valuable without needing proof.


Cary Bazalgette’s full report ‘Impacts of Moving Image Education’ can be downloaded here. In the Executive Summary (page 3) she outlines the seven ‘generic impacts’ of film education. In the padlet below complete the poll, by rating each of the statements out of five.

Finally in your notepad record the impact you think is the most important? And how do you think we can tell whether such a benefit is being realised?

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