Creative strategies

Following are examples of specific creative strategies that can be used for evaluation


Photo mapping – the mapping of infrastructure on a photo map by participants, for example of the support and health services in the area. It is a good evaluation of the built environment and specific health outcomes.1

Photo Essays – a technique used by participants to describe themselves or their own view on something. They take photos, create captions, and a description. In particular, relationships, social settings and personal characteristics can be the topics.

Photovoice – similar to photo essays, often with less written feedback. For example, a school setting with the topic question “What is best and worst about my school”. It can be a group or an individual activity and is also used to stimulate discussion.2

Photo interviewing – the use of photographs as stimuli during interviews or to structure discussions.

Group discussions using card procedures

A set of cards are used which encourage group discussion, with questions that come under various topics such as, identity, relationships, values, emotions and beliefs. There are other card resources that encourage the discussion of feelings and beliefs, with activities to assist the process (e.g. St Luke’s Innovative Resources). Generally cards are used as a source of stimulation for discussion.


Online simulations of life-like events are used to improve the coping skills for those who learn by doing. For example, in the computer-based simulation game Reach Out Central (developed by the Inspire Foundation), the topics include making new friends, peer pressure, stress, anxiety, drug use, self confidence and anger management. The scenarios have been successfully used in schools as a teaching technique, and are often more successful than conventional teaching and learning techniques.

Social network mapping

Mapping involves the formation of a diagram that shows an individual’s social network. It shows the support network possibly accessed by the participants, possibly demonstrating trust, friendship, families, and communication. For example, participants can be asked to think of up to five people they talk to about important matters, or up to three people they talk to about health-care decisions.3
The networks can be hand drawn by participants. Using three concentric circles, the participant places the “you” in the middle circle and the first names of close friends and family in the innermost circle, and those who are less close in the outer circle.4

Role plays

Role plays are characterised by designated, interpersonal vignettes in which the participant is assigned a role and instructed to respond to a series of structured prompts.5 Role plays have been used to assess generic skills. They facilitate investigators to target specific interactions that avoid naturalistic observation while preserving a “real life” element that is lacking in self-report measures.5 It has been shown that self-report measures (e.g. questionnaires) reflect adolescent perceptions more than they capture capability. Coding schemes are developed to assess key behaviours in specific scenarios, including resolution strategies and social skills.5


Participants read or are read a brief description of a specific social interaction. This is followed by a multiple choice items or a structured interview querying interpretation of the exchange, potential responses, solutions, and outcomes.7,8 For example, self-report measures of conflict resolution often take the form of hypothetical social conflict scenarios.6


Collage is an example of an arts-based intervention that positions young people in engaging and participatory ways. Collage making involves the cutting out, arranging and sticking down of images/text/drawings/colour that can be taken from a variety of sources. Collage can be as technological sophisticated as you want it to be, with the use of Photoshop and the internet, or as simple as resources dictate, for example, using scissors, paper and glue.9 The process of making a collage can often generate constructive topic-related conversations among the participants. These discussions can be recorded and analysed.

Digital storytelling and vox pop

The term ‘vox pop’ comes from the Latin phrase vox populi, meaning ‘voice of the people’. Traditionally, the vox pop is a tool used in media research to provide a snapshot of public opinion. Random participants are asked to give their views on a particular topic: these are viewed as reflection of popular opinion. Digital storytelling involves making a film that tells ordinary people’s real life stories. This involves meaningful workshop processes and participatory production methods. The final product tends to be in the first-person narrative.

Dance and drama

The art of dance and everyday movement provide a pattern of meaningful motions of the body that can convey an interpretation of the world in which we live. Dance has been used as not only an expression of research but as a form of inquiry into the research process.10 Dance can be presented in silhouette, functioning as an ongoing backdrop to a verbal presentation. This theatrical representation of data can form part of a group’s expression of experience.11 Telling a story through writing and performance (play and/or dance) can be an effective way to explore and divulge personal experience or even group experience of a project.


This type of artwork stands as a powerful metaphor/image. This approach can be used when exploring any topic.12 Through coaching dialogue, participants can be asked to reflect in a deep and structured way on the sculptures. This is where the coach listens actively and asks searching questions of the participant to elicit a clearer understanding. The resulting insights can be shared and form the basis for new learning, understanding and action.12 Clay is a particularly suitable material for sculpting. Its pliability and texture, its suitability for cutting, pounding, prodding, stabbing, squeezing, shaping, breaking and sticking make it ideal for the expression of feelings. ‘Clay has a dynamic, poetic quality that lends itself to emotional expression’.12

Other materials that can be utilised include recyclable products such as plastic, cardboard and fabric.

To find out more about how creative strategies can be utilised for evaluation check out the My-Peer Case Study 4.


  1. Dennis, S., S. Gaulocher, R. Carpiano and D. Brown. 2009. Participatory photo mapping (PPM): Exploring an integrated method for health and place research with young people. Health and Place 15: 466-473.
  2. Chio, V. & P. Fandt. 2007. Photovoice in the diversity classroom: engagement, voice, and
  3. McCarty, C., J. L. Molina, C. Aguilar and L. Rota. 2007. A comparison of social network mapping and personal network visualization. Field Methods 19 (2): 145-162.
  4. Butts, C. 2008. Social network analysis: A methodological introduction. Asian Journal of Social Psychology 11(1): 13-41.
  5. Foster, S. L., H.M. Inderbitzen and D.W. Nangle. 1993. Assessing acceptance and social skills with peers in childhood: Current issues. Behavior Modification 17 (3): 255–286.
  6. Borbely, C. J. G., Nichols, J.A., Brooks-Gunn, T., Botvin, J., and Gilbert, J. (2005). “Sixth Graders’ Conflict Resolution in Role Plays with a Peer, Parent, and Teacher”. Journal of Youth and Adolescence 34 (4): 279-291.
  7. Dodge, K. A. and C. L. Frame. 1982. Social cognitive biases and deficits in aggressive boys. Child Development 55: 163–173.
  8. Dodge, K. A., C.L. McClaskey and E. Feldman. 1985. A situational approach to the assessment of social competence in children. The Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology 53: 344–353.
  10. Cancienne, M. B. &  C.N. Snowber. 2003. Writing rhythm: Movement as method. Qualitative Inquiry 9 (2): 237-253.
  11. Blumenfeld-Jones, D. S. 1995. Dance as a mode of research representation. Qualitative Inquiry 1 (4): 391-401.
  12. Hughes, S. 2009. Leadership, management and sculpture: how arts based activities can transform learning and deepen understanding. Reflective Practice 10 (1): 77–90.