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Working with External Evaluators, Colleges, and Universitites

Colleges and universities can be great resources for agencies that need assistance with developing evaluation processes for their work. Depending on your budget and the scope of your evaluation, there are options to hire professors or graduate students for assistance. Also, it’s not unusual for students to need program evaluation internships or projects for classes.

Making Questionnaires More Interactive

To increase participant engagement with questionnaires, they can be administered through interactive means rather than on a piece of paper or through a computer. Interactive options have the potential to be more engaging for participants by increasing their kinesthetic involvement and feeling less like tests (Dodson & Paleo, 2011).

Consider the following examples:

Evaluation Capacity

What does it take to do good evaluation?

When you read the question above, do you immediately think about data analysis skills?  Or survey design skills? While an evaluator needs skills in data collection and analysis, these are only two of the many areas of knowledge and skill that help an evaluator succeed.  An organization’s capacity to conduct evaluation stretches well beyond any one individual’s knowledge-level or skill sets.  

Evaluating Across the Social Ecology

Comprehensive primary prevention work requires that we work beyond the individual and relationship levels in order to create deep and meaningful change in our communities. The prospect of evaluating beyond the individual and relationship levels of our work can seem daunting. However, although the potential scope of data collection is larger for community-level initiatives, the evaluation principles and practices are the same.

Interpreting Data

Interpreting Data

When data are analyzed, they don’t automatically tell you a story or indicate how to act on them. In order to act on the data, you need to make meaning of the data through a process of interpretation. This is the point when you look at the analyzed data and say “so what?”

This step helps you determine potential explanations for why the data came out the way they did so that you know what actions to take as a result.

Analyzing Data

Once you’ve collected data, you need to turn the raw data into a form that is more useful for driving decision making. That means you need to analyze the data in some way. Qualitative and quantitative data are analyzed in different ways.

Data Collection

Evaluation design answers an important set of questions about how the evaluation will roll out, specifically it answers particular questions related to data collection:

  • What is the context of your evaluation?
  • When will you collect it?
  • From whom?
  • How?

What is the context?

Before planning for data collection, analysis and use, you should answer some additional questions about the context of your evaluation.

Outcomes and Indicators

Outcomes are often a critical part of program development and evaluation. There are evaluation models that don’t require pre-determined outcomes (goal-free evaluation, for example) and innovative program development models often do not involve pre-establishing specific outcomes and rather look for emergent outcomes. However, most of us will be involved in developing and implementing programs and evaluations that require some level of specificity around outcomes or what we hope to achieve with our efforts.

Doing Evaluation

This section provides an introduction on how to do evaluation and outlines general steps to take when conducting a program evaluation. While this section does contain tips and tools, they are best implemented in the context of a well-defined and specific evaluation approach, which can be chosen and designed to be appropriate to both the specific type of intervention you want to evaluate and the context in which you will evaluate it.