Family Learning Forum

A Project of the USS Constitution Museum

Summative Evaluation

by USS Constitution Museum Team

Are exhibits and programs every really finished? There is often room for major improvements after the opening.

Summative Evaluation is conducted when your audience can experience the total “package.” It often reveals problems that were not, or could not be, identified during the earlier stages of development.

  • Do visitors understand which way you intend them to go?
  • Can they find instructions or key text panels?
  • Do graphics make sense in place?
  • Does your audience understand the major themes of your exhibit or program?
  • How much time does the average visitor spend in the exhibit or program?
  • Are there elements of the exhibit everyone seems to miss?
  • Is your program the right length?

Some museums use temporary orientation and directional signage when opening an exhibit because they know summative evaluation will identify necessary changes for the final versions of these exhibit elements.

Forms of summative evaluation:

  • Visitor tracking, timing, and behavioral coding – simple effective and honest! Observ your visitors in the exhibit with a floorplan. Where do they stop? What do they interact with or read? Do they talk to each other about your content? How much time do they spend in each part of your exhibit?
  • Exhibit interview, asking visitors to give you a little feedback at the end of your exhibit. Do they get the major themes? Did they enjoy the exhibit? Do they have suggestions? Exit interviews can be short and informal or long and comprehensive.