Interpretation for Archeologists   4. Tools For Interpreters   Distance Learning

The Interpretive Analysis Model: A Tool for Assessment

Assessment enables interpreters to reflect on their work. Outcome evaluations must be visitor-based and are both short-term and long-term. Although outcomes cannot always be measured immediately or quantitatively, you still should measure the effectiveness of the various interpretive opportunities offered to the public.

  • Evaluations of short-term outcomes focus on whether an effective interpretive opportunity was offered to the audience.
  • Evaluations of long-term outcomes focus on whether the larger NPS mission goals of perpetuating the nation's natural and cultural heritage and promoting a stewardship ethic in the public are met.
  • Interpreters must seek audience feedback to gauge the effectiveness of the interpretive theme, content, program, etc. An effective outcome is measured by the degree to which the audience forms effective linkages to the archeological resources, not the amount of information conveyed, audience applause, or the personal satisfaction of the interpreter. Focus groups, visitor "report cards," and surveys can measure interpretive outcome effectiveness.

Visitor-based evaluations, however, do not mean that you shouldn’t ask for feedback from your professional resources! Park employees draw on a diverse body of professional knowledge. Be sure to ask for help and for suggestions.

Using the Interpretive Analysis Model

The NPS Interpretive Analysis Model provides a way to assess public programs. It supplies a strategy for identifying successful elements in interpretation and appropriate areas for growth. A detailed version of the model is available in pdf format. A worksheet, including a sample product for evaluation, is also available.

Use What You Know

Use the questions below to guide your evaluation of the interpretive program you produced in the Interpretive Process Model or of another interpretive product. Decide on the best way to present your evaluation and make sure that it addresses all the questions as they relate to the subheadings.

  1. Identify tangible resource or resources.
    • What places, objects, people, or events are being interpreted?
    • What is the interpretive product or service helping the audience care more about?
    • What tangible resources act as the icon?
  2. Identify intangible meanings.
    • Which intangible meanings are present? List the meanings you recognize. Which are universal concepts?
    • How can you involve visitors in the discovery of these intangible meanings?
    • Can you identify any areas of bias in your interpretation?
  3. Identify opportunities for connections to resource meanings and the interpretive methods used to develop them.
    • How have you developed opportunities to facilitate connections between the meanings of the resource and the interests of the audience?
    • What specific methods are used?
  4. Identify which opportunities favor emotional connections and which favor intellectual connections to resource meanings.
    • What is the functional intent behind the opportunities?
    • How are they used to affect the audience, and what does the interpreter intend to effect in it?
    • Did the program as a whole help the audience feel and think differently about the resource, and how do you know?
  5. Identify the cohesive development of a relevant idea or ideas.
    • Does the product have a focus?
    • Is the focus a meaningful idea or ideas, or is it a topic or chronology?
    • Do the ideas you perceive from the program include universal concepts?
    • Does the program develop an idea?
    • Does it say something meaningful about the resource?
    • Is the idea relevant to the audience? How do you know?
    • How did the arrangement of opportunities for accessing the material emotionally and intellectually contribute to the development of the program’s central idea?
  6. Consider the effect of the product as a whole.
    • What is its effect?
    • Is it saying anything meaningful – not just in isolation at one point in the program but as an understandable and logical whole to someone without pre-existing knowledge of archeology or the resource?
    • Does the product lead the way or does it ask the audience to do the work and create their own story from the links and opportunities provided?
    • Is the interpretive product successful as a catalyst for creating opportunities for the audience to form their own intellectual and emotional connections to the meanings and significance inherent in the resource?
    • Is the product appropriate for the audience?
    • Does it provide a clear focus for their connection with the resource by demonstrating the cohesive development of a relevant idea or ideas, rather than relying primarily on a recital of a chronological narrative or a series of facts?
  7. Compare your analysis with the analysis of others.
    • What other people have you identified as resources in the course of creating the program?
    • How does your program and analysis compare with that of other fields or interpreters?
    • How might your experience help others?
    • What have you, or what can you, learn from other archeologists’ analyses?
  8. Identify ways to improve the product or service.
    • Drawing on the answers to the questions above, what would make your program more effective? How might more opportunities for accessing the material, another approach in style or media, or a different sequence might improve it?
    • Is the central idea holding together?
    • Does the material provide opportunities for connections? Do the tangible/intangible links need editing and rearranging to make the development of the central idea more cohesive?

Use What You Know: Assess Your Knowledge (#4 of 10)

(icon) A ranger's hat.

Gather together your answers to the questions in this chapter.

  • What are the primary interpretive themes grounded in your park’s statements of significance?
  • How do themes go beyond a restatement of the facts to include tangibles, intangibles, and universal concepts?
  • How do these primary themes meet the desired interpretive outcome of increasing visitor understanding and appreciation of the significances of your park’s resources?
  • Consider the language of the themes. Are they written for NPS audiences, professionals, the public? Are the themes in phrased ideas or complete sentences?

MJB/EJL