Piloting and feasibility

An important step within the development of a research idea is to have a strong intervention that has the best chance of achieving the impacts being explored. This brings into the equation three issues: how well targeted the intervention is to the needs and sensitivities of the participant group, how practical it is to run, and how high the artistic quality is. The first two of these issues were discussed at length in Chapters 5 and 6, and the third was touched on; however, it should not be underestimated. The issue of quality is not to create a false distinction between professional and amateur practice; both have been researched and shown to have benefits for health and wellbeing. Rather it pertains to how well designed the intervention is and how rigorously and creatively the opportunities for maximizing its impact have been explored. For example, consider an intervention in which a dancer teaches a general non-specific dance class to older adults with mobility issues. Then consider an intervention in which a dancer with experience working in healthcare teaches a class to the same older adults incorporating all the recommended physiotherapy exercises into more creative dance steps, using music that the older adults are likely to know and recognize, and providing follow-up resources to encourage practice at home. The difference between these is likely to have a profound effect on the benefits felt by participants, the buy-in of healthcare professionals, and the interest of funders. An intervention of poor quality runs the risk of leading to a research project with no clear or meaningful findings and the concept of ‘dance’ being good for ‘mobility in older adults’ being dismissed, when a better-designed dance intervention for the same target group could have found more distinct benefits.

Table 10.7 The spectrum of options for piloting and feasibility






Feasibility of the arts intervention itself is being/ has been assessed based on expert opinion and information from previous studies.

the arts intervention is being devised in response to patient/ public need. a basic informal consultation is being/has been carried out, involving one or more of the following: service users, staff, health organizations, arts organizations.

A formal consultation process into the need for the arts intervention is being/has been carried out involving an identification of healthcare priorities, research into the psychological/ physical needs and experience of service users, and an assessment of the needs and views of staff/ service users, and a review of similar arts interventions in arts/health settings is undertaken.

In addition to the full formal consultation process, a pilot session(s) of the arts intervention is being/ has been undertaken to assess logistics, costings, and group sizes, and to gain some basic feedback oR the arts intervention is already running successfully.

A full pilot project with preliminary evaluation or previous small research project assessing the intervention is being/has been undertaken to assess fully the strengths and inner workings of the project.

If a research project is following on from the development steps outlined earlier in this book, these issues should have been addressed in previous piloting and feasibility work. But if a research project has arisen more from a specific research question than from an already-existing intervention, piloting and feasibility should be considered. Table 10.7 shows a scale ranging from no piloting but basic feasibility (level 1) to more comprehensive levels of consultation and piloting. Details of how to carry these steps out are covered in Chapters 5 and 6.

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