Program Evaluation: an Essential Tool in Strategic Planning

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|Program Evaluation: An Essential Tool in Strategic Planning|May 13 | | |2013 | |Program evaluation is one of the most essential elements of strategic thinking and planning. By |Using Program Evaluation to improve | |definition program evaluation is the systematic assessment of the processes and/or outcomes of a |programs and services | |program with the intent of furthering its development and improvement. For example, during program | | |implementation, evaluators can provide formative evaluation findings so that program staff can make | | |immediate, data-based decisions about program implementation and delivery. | |

The Program Leader's Guide to Evaluation

Dr. Dwayne B. Thomas, Ph.D.

Why Evaluate Your Program?

You should evaluate your program because an evaluation helps you accomplish the following:

• Find out what is and is not working in your program
• Show your funders and the community what your program does and how it benefits your participants • Raise additional money for your program by providing evidence of its effectiveness • Improve your staff's work with participants by identifying weaknesses as well as strengths • Add to the existing knowledge in the human services field about what does and does not work in your type of program with your kinds of participants

What is program evaluation?

Program Leaders and staff frequently informally assess their program's effectiveness: Are participants benefiting from the program? Are there sufficient numbers of participants? Are the strategies for recruiting participants working? Are participants satisfied with the services or training? Do staff have the necessary skills to provide the services or training? These are all questions that program Leaders and staff ask and answer on a routine basis.

Evaluation addresses these same questions, but uses a systematic method for collecting, analyzing, and using information to answer basic questions about a program - and to ensure that those answers are supported by evidence. This does not mean that conducting an evaluation requires no technical knowledge or experience - but it also does not mean that evaluation is beyond the understanding of program Leaders and staff.

What are the basic questions an evaluation can answer?

What is involved in conducting an evaluation?

What will an evaluation cost?

Who Should Conduct Your Evaluation?

One decision that must be made before you begin your evaluation is who will conduct it. Evaluation is best thought of as a team effort. Although one individual heads the team and has primary responsibility for the project, this person will need assistance and cooperation from others. Again, think of building a house. You may hire a contractor to build your house, but you would not expect this professional to do the job alone. You know that to build your house the contractor will need guidance from you and assistance from a variety of technical experts including an architect, electrician, plumber, carpenter, roofer, and mechanical engineer.

Similarly, in conducting an evaluation, the team leader will need assistance from a variety of individuals in determining the focus and design of the evaluation, developing the evaluation plan and sampling plan (if necessary), constructing data collection instruments, collecting the evaluation data, analyzing and interpreting the data, and preparing the final report.

What are some possible types of evaluation teams?

How can you decide what team is best for you?

|Resources for Appropriate Team Selection...
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