A critical comparison of methods for evaluating Arts and Dementia programmes | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 4, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2040-2457
  • E-ISSN: 2040-2465



The aim of providing a close reading of a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of reminiscence groups for people with dementia and an evaluation of a pilot arts programme for people with dementia is to compare evidence from the paradigms of health and arts. Whilst the RCT is the gold standard of research in Health, the qualitative approach favoured by arts may be able to capture subtle shifts in participants’ affect. Although RCTs are beyond the budget of small arts organizations, there are lessons to be learnt in terms of study design – the use of control groups, random allocation, the blinding of researchers to the intervention participants receive, regular data collection points and the use of validated quantitative scales. There is already considerable pressure on small arts organizations to provide effective evaluation that satisfies a range of stakeholders, and adopting the suggested methodologies would require considerable support in terms of resource and expertise. While the focus of this article is on arts and health work for older people, the principal of comparing a RCT with a general evaluation has relevance for arts programmes with health outcomes for a range of participants.


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