Monitoring and Evaluation

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 Dimensions in Testimony (DiT) project that enables people to ask questions that prompt real-time responses from pre-recorded video interviews with Holocaust survivors and other witnesses to genocide, 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.


Designed for middle and high school students, IWitness is the Institute’s flagship educational website, offering multimedia lessons built around short clips of testimony.

To date, we have evaluated IWitness’ impact with over 1,200 students around the world.

IWitness Evaluation Summary

Evaluation findings show that IWitness helps students become responsible citizens contributing to positive social
change, as shown in the following table illustrating the Institute’s Theory of Change model, which posits that through
engagement with testimony, students will develop knowledge, skills, and attitudes that make them more committed
to becoming responsible participants in society.

An analysis of data across six IWitness pilots in 2013-2015 shows that participating in IWitness creates significant
positive change in students, specifically on four key measures:

  1. Interest in historical topics
  2. Recognition that it is important to speak up against stereotyping around them
  3.  The belief that one person can make a difference if they see an example of stereotyping against a group of people
  4. Understanding that people have a responsibility to be active citizens in their communities

That is, even in different cities, with engagement in different activities, IWitness instills in students an interest in
history and a sense of civic responsibility. Furthermore as a result of participating in IWitness, students…

Data source: Data from 6 IWitness classroom pilots conducted in November 2013-June 2015. The above findings show the aggregate increases of 185 participating students, comparing pre and post results.
Value testimony and respond well to testimony-based learning
  • 79% of students reported that learning through testimony had a strong impact on them, and 76% feel that they benefited from using IWitness.
  • An overwhelming majority of students (81%) feel that the topics covered in IWitness are important to learn about.
Are developing knowledge and skills
  • More than 90% of the students who participated in an IWitness activity in the United States have a greater understanding of the issues going on in the world.
  • Students showed increases in problem solving skills (8%), their academic ability (6%), and their ability to use and find information when conducting research online, in a library, or using books (41%)
Are developing critical thinking
  • After completing an IWitness activity, students rating themselves in the highest category of critical thinking increased 14%.
Are developing empathy
  • Students showed increases in their recognition that people have a responsibility to be active citizens in their community (5%) and a belief that one person can make a difference if they see an example of stereotyping (13%)
Have a motivation to act
  • Students were more interested in civic engagement (a 17% increase for students rating in the top 10%) and had a greater motivation to make a difference in the world (a 6% increase in above average/top 10%).
Express commitment to participate as contributors to civil society

“I think this program will really influence me to think about how I act and what I say to people that are not like me or other people with different backgrounds.” – Chicago

“They showed me that a single person could change hundreds of people’s lives. It will influence me in the future to be bold in helping others.” – San Diego

Dimensions in Testimony

Dimensions in Testimony enables people to ask questions that prompt real-time responses from pre-recorded video interviews with Holocaust survivors and other witnesses to genocide. The pioneering project integrates advanced filming techniques, specialized display technologies and next-generation natural language processing to create an interactive biography.

The Institute has evaluated its effectiveness among students at the University of Southern California, and among students, docents and patrons at the Illinois Holocaust Museum.

Students who experienced Dimension in Testimony perceived greater gains than control groups

  • 90% increase in interest in historical topics
  • 68% increase in critical thinking
  • 53% increase in knowledge of issues going on in the world