Our evaluation program shows that stories of genocide survivors are a powerful teaching tool.
One of our primary aims at USC Shoah Foundation is to use testimonies for educational purposes. Whether through IWitness – a website that builds learning activities around short clips of testimony – or through our pioneering New Dimensions in Testimony (NDT) project that enables students to have a “virtual conversation” with a Holocaust survivor, we are creating resources that not only foster critical-thinking and digital skills in students, but also instill empathy and teach the dangers of hatred and intolerance.
Our efforts to go beyond imparting facts and figures to young learners is reflected in our Theory of Change: Through engagement with testimony, students will gain knowledge and skills that lead to responsible participation in society. (Our definition of responsible participation includes refusing to tolerate racist ideas or prejudicial treatment, as well as countering attitudes and acts of hatred.)
To gauge our ability to reach these objectives – and to help us understand the change that occurs in students when they engage with testimony – we are continually monitoring and evaluating our programs. Whether the results are positive, negative or neutral, these quantitative and qualitative measures help ensure that our programs are effective and align with our mission to overcome prejudice, intolerance and hatred – and the suffering they cause – through the educational use of the Institute’s Visual History Archive.
Our evaluation measures follow best practices in social science research, using a mixed-methods approach to assess cognitive and behavioral change when testimonies are used in education. We use a variety of tools to measure these, including: observation, surveys, interviews, focus group discussions, and analysis of student work. Every box checked on a survey, comment made in a focus group, and lesson observed in a classroom contributes to our understanding of program impact.