According to the Office of Educational Assessment at the University of Washington, program evaluation is “the systematic assessment of the processes and/or outcomes of a program with the intent of furthering its development and improvement.” In this blog, we discuss a few basic ideas about program evaluation and provide a useful resource for those including evaluation components in their grant applications.
Program evaluation is an important part of the planning process for any educational program, as it measures the success of what you originally wanted to accomplish. As suggested by the above definition, program evaluation can also identify areas of strengths and weaknesses to help you plan for the future.
For example, say a school receives a grant for increasing student learning in the STEM disciplines. A low-cost and simple evaluation process would include pre- and post-project grades for the students in STEM areas. If the proposal goals also included self-perceptions, the evaluation plan could also have students completing a self-assessment of their abilities before and after completing a STEM program experience. The data collected can then be used to indicate the strengths and weaknesses of the STEM program.
Grant applications often require that applicants submit an evaluation plan as part of their application package. Program evaluations can require additional costs, and the cost of evaluation is entirely contingent upon the scope and nature of the evaluation activities and measures requested. The National Science Foundation's “rule of thumb” about evaluation budgets is 10% of the total grant amount.
“A Basic Guide to Program Evaluation” by Carter McNamara is one resource that could help when putting together a program evaluation component. The guide includes discussion of goal-based evaluation, outcomes evaluation, and process evaluation. It also includes discussion of some program evaluation myths.
Not only do many grants require an evaluation component, but many grants will fund program evaluation as an effort independent of the program itself. If you need assistance in identifying funding sources that might pay for your program evaluation, or with designing the evaluation section of a proposal, please do not hesitate to contact us. One of our experts will be happy to work with you.
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